Is small the new big for materials science?
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They can pull objects faster than a speeding bullet, levitate a train, or reveal a brain tumour. They’re integral to computer hard drives, smart phones, and LCD screens, as well as the central communications system of every family – the refrigerator door.


If Muralee Murugesu has his way, he’s going to make them even better: smaller, cheaper, and more energy-efficient.

Working in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Ottawa, Murugesu is studying how to design and create high-density, energy-saving nano-magnetic material.

“We need to be innovative if we want to build faster, more cost-effective computers,” says Murugesu. “If we can use a single molecule as a magnet component in a computing device, we can store a lot more information in a small surface with less energy consumption.”

He focuses on single-molecule magnets (SMMs) that use rare earth elements (rare metals) known as lanthanides. These tiny field generators can be used in a wide variety of electronic devices. They can be used in wind turbines, energy-efficient LED lights, and hybrid cars.

“What we are really doing is engineering at the molecular level,” he says.

By designing these nano-magnetic materials, Murugesu can provide high-tech companies with the cutting-edge material they need to create tomorrow’s more cost- and energy-effective technologies – from super computers to even smarter smart phones.

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