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Information storage and retrieval in a single levitating colloidal particle

Abstract

The binary switch is a basic component of digital information. From phase-change alloys to nanomechanical beams, molecules and atoms, new strategies for controlled bistability hold great interest for emerging technologies. We present a generic methodology for precise and parallel spatiotemporal control of nanometre-scale matter in a fluid, and demonstrate the ability to attain digital functionalities such as switching, gating and data storage in a single colloid, with further implications for signal amplification and logic operations. This fluid-phase bit can be arrayed at high densities, manipulated by either electrical or optical fields, supports low-energy, high-speed operation and marks a first step toward ‘colloidal information’. The principle generalizes to any system where spatial perturbation of a particle elicits a differential response amenable to readout.

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Figure 1: A nanorod in a bistable potential well.
Figure 2: Volatile electrical operation of a fluid-phase bit.
Figure 3: An arbitrary arrangement of switchable and pre-aligned nanorods subject to an alternating square-wave field of magnitude |E| = 4.5 mV μm–1 (Supplementary Movie 7).
Figure 4: Non-volatile electrical operation of a fluid-phase bit.
Figure 5: Optical gating and information storage.

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Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge financial support from the Swiss National Science Foundation and the University of Zurich. Nanofabrication was carried out at the FIRST Center for Micro- and Nanoscience, ETH Zurich.

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Authors

Contributions

C.J.M. and M.C. performed the experiments and analysed the data. M.K. conceived the project, designed the experiments and wrote the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Madhavi Krishnan.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

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Supplementary information (PDF 788 kb)

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Supplementary Movie 1 (AVI 6959 kb)

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Supplementary Movie 2 (AVI 20588 kb)

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Supplementary Movie 3 (AVI 13215 kb)

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Supplementary Movie 4 (AVI 14905 kb)

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Supplementary Movie 5 (AVI 12650 kb)

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Supplementary Movie 6 (AVI 20444 kb)

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Supplementary Movie 7 (AVI 5154 kb)

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Myers, C., Celebrano, M. & Krishnan, M. Information storage and retrieval in a single levitating colloidal particle. Nature Nanotech 10, 886–891 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nnano.2015.173

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