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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/M022064/2
Title: Radical-Bridged Lanthanide Molecular Nanomagnets
Principal Investigator: Layfield, Professor RA
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
University of Leuven
Department: Sch of Life Sciences
Organisation: University of Sussex
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 01 May 2018 Ends: 31 August 2020 Value (£): 453,636
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Co-ordination Chemistry
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
Rare-earth metals such as neodymium, terbium and dysprosium have unusual and highly desirable magnetic properties; some of their alloys are amongst the strongest known permanent magnets. Rare earth magnets have widespread applications in a range of settings, including computer hard-disk drives. Magnetic materials are particularly important for computing because they provide the means by which digital information is transferred to, stored within, and read from an information storage unit. The storage unit typically consists of a collection of magnetic domains, where ordering occurs across dimensions of hundreds of nanometres. The size of the magnetic domain is crucial because it determines the amount of information that can be stored and processed.

One of the most important tasks facing society today is to find ways of dealing with so-called Big Data, the term used to describe digital information that occurs in vast amounts and is of an increasingly complex nature. Processing Big Data with conventional magnetic storage media will eventually prove to be impossible, hence the development of new information storage devices is the grand challenge. The key to success with this challenge is miniaturization, hence this project will develop a new generation of magnetic materials on the molecular scale, with dimensions of only a few nanometres.

The molecular materials with which this project is concerned are known as single-molecule magnets (SMMs). In contrast to traditional permanent magnets, SMMs are discrete molecular nano-magnets that retain magnetization in ways that do not rely on interactions across large distances, hence they offer unique properties that have been proposed as the basis of ultrahigh-density information technology, with processing at unprecedentedly fast speeds. SMMs have also been proposed as the working components of nano-scale molecular spintronic devices. The drawback with SMMs is that all examples function only at liquid-helium temperatures: this project will develop SMMs that function at more practical temperatures, which will introduce the possibility of developing prototype devices. More broadly, achieving the aims of this project will make an important contribution towards advancing the EPSRC Nanoscale Design of Functional Materials Grand Challenge.

The aims of the project will be achieved using innovative synthetic strategies based on molecular rare earth compounds in which the metal centres are linked by a series of novel magnetic organic groups. The key advance that will be enabled by this project will be with the magnetic organic linkers, which provide an innovative way of preventing the processes that otherwise switch off the magnetic memory of SMMs. An important feature of the molecular design process is the ability to change the magnetic properties at the atomic level by, for example, switching the atoms that connect the rare earth metals from phosphorus to arsenic, and from arsenic to other main group elements. Alternatively, a family of organic linkers with the capacity to change their magnetic moments via targeted chemical modifications have also been proposed, a strategy that will allow fine tuning of SMM properties. The experimental approach will be complemented by high-level theoretical calculations, which will provide detailed insight into the new SMMs and will provide a rational way of developing improved systems.

Ultimately, we will develop SMMs that function at temperatures that can be reached by cooling with liquid nitrogen. Such materials would represent a step-change in molecular nanomagnetism, and would result in tremendous impact across the scientific community, with the potential to make impact more widely in society.
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Organisation Website: http://www.sussex.ac.uk