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Scientists solved an old problem

Scientists solved an old problem

In chemistry and physics switches are materials that can shift between two or more states. In advanced digital devices these switches are switching between such values as on and off or 0 and 1. For years these switches suffered from problems of efficiency, because they couldn’t really operate very well at room temperatures. But now scientists from the University of Queensland might have solved that problem.

Researchers discovered a special new “recipe”, which would allow molecular switches to work at room temperature. This has a potential to make computers faster, batteries more long-lasting and other electronics simply more efficient. Complex devices could become more compact and more powerful because of this discovery.

Molecular switches that work at room temperature could make electronics more compact, more powerful and more efficient. Image credit: Jamesmathew1840139 via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Molecular switches up until now could only run at extremely cold temperatures  – we’re talking below minus 250 degrees centigrade. Obviously, this is a big problem – creating such a cold environment is very difficult and other components may not like that kind of temperature. For years chemists and physicists about this problem, because the full potential of molecular switches could not be unlocked. But now scientists found an optimal mixture of materials that could deliver desired results at room temperature.

Professor Ben Powell employed quantum mechanics to come up with the new generation of molecular switches. He says that this discovery could bring many changes to electronics – “By following this detailed ‘recipe’, chemists should be able to make molecular switches work at room temperature. This will open the door to a bounty of technological advancements, such as improving MRI scans which could lead to earlier detection of diseases like cancer.”

But molecular switches can be more useful than that – they could be used for various sensors, carbon capture technologies, fuel cells. In fact, these switches can turn electricity into movement – these kind of actuators could be employed in robotics. Since extremely low temperatures would not be needed, these robots could be very efficient and work in different environments. 

Scientists also believe that the new material for molecular switches could reduce the burden on the environment. This is because powerful computers could use less energy and electronics could last longer.

Of course, for now it is just a scientific discovery, not a product. Scientists in Australia will now put effort into producing these materials and making the molecular switch using the new recipe. It will be years till it can be put into products, but it could bring many positive advancements in computer, electronic and robotics. 

Source: University of Queensland SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY NEWS

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