Scientists Discover a “Recipe” which Allows Molecular Switches to Work at Room Temperature

Scientists at the University of Queensland have solved an issue that has perplexed chemists and physicists for years, paving the way for a new era of powerful, efficient, and environment-friendly technology.

Scientists Discover a “Recipe” which Allows Molecular Switches to Work at Room Temperature.
UQ researchers have discovered a “recipe” which allows molecular switches to work at room temperature. Image Credit: Adobe stock.

Professor Ben Powell of the University of Queensland’s School of Mathematics and Physics has developed a “recipe” that permits molecular switches to function at ambient temperature using quantum mechanics.

Switches are materials that can shift between two or more states, such as on and off or 0 and 1, and are the basis of all digital technologies. This discovery paves the way for smaller and more powerful and energy-efficient technologies. You can expect batteries will last longer and computers to run faster.

Ben Powell, Professor, School of Mathematics and Physics, University of Queensland

Molecular switching has only been feasible until now when the molecules are very cold, below –250 °C.

Powell added, “Engineering-wise, this is a big problem. 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.

These materials can also be used for sensors, carbon capture and storage, hydrogen fuel cells, and as actuators, which can turn electricity into movement, which would be useful for robots. All of these applications need materials that can be switched at or above room temperature, which is why our discovery is so important,” stated Powell.

Powell outlined, “Using these materials will also reduce the burden on the environment because computer energy use will be cut, aiding the fight against climate change.”

To test the novel “recipe,” UQ researchers will collaborate with chemists from the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales to create new materials.

Journal Reference:

Nadeem, M., et al. (2022) Toward High-Temperature Light-Induced Spin-State Trapping in Spin-Crossover Materials: The Interplay of Collective and Molecular Effects. Journal of the American Chemical Society. doi:10.1021/jacs.2c03202.


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