Tokyo scientists develop liquid-crystal memory device

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Scientists in Japan have made a breakthrough in the advance of data storage using liquid-crystal technology.

The development comes in response to the companies that are seeking better ways to store many gigabytes of data in small, low-power devices.

So far, attempts to use liquid crystals for data storage have had limited success.

In order to reliably record and rewrite data, researchers must work out a way to uniformly control the orientation of liquid-crystal molecules.

Currently, most liquid-crystal technologies rely on physical or chemical manipulation, such as rubbing in one direction, to align molecules in a preferred direction.

Now, scientists at the Tokyo Institute of Technology are said to have created a stable, rewritable memory device that exploits a liquid-crystal property called the ’anchoring transition’.

Using either a laser beam or an electric field, the researchers can align rod-like liquid-crystal molecules in a polymer. Their tests show that the liquid crystal created by the team can store data, be erased and be used again.

‘This is the first rewritable memory device utilising anchoring transition,’ said Hideo Takezoe, who led the research.

As the device is bi-stable – the liquid crystals retain their orientation in one of two directions – it needs no power to keep images, according to Takezoe.

The work is described in the Journal of Applied Physics, which is published by the American Institute of Physics.