Smaller, faster memory chips

Metal, DNA at core of Prof. Naaman's new device


Date: January 25, 2015
Weizmann Direct Vol. 2 Issue 1

The e-revolution has generated plenty of super-fast electronics to keep us thoroughly busy with the myriad devices we manage on a daily basis.

But now memory storage is poised to get even faster and more efficient with a new nano-device developed at the Weizmann Institute. More intriguing yet is the secret to the new speed: biological molecules.

The technology is a new nano-device made of DNA and synthetic peptides—molecules similar to but smaller than proteins—attached to a nickel plate. It is based on an effect in molecular electronics discovered more than a decade ago at the Weizmann Institute of Science by Prof. Ron Naaman from the Department of Chemical Physics, Prof. Zeev Vager from the Department of Particle Physics and Astrophysics and their colleagues. The researchers found that they could cause the electrons to spin either clockwise or counterclockwise by passing them through molecules that were “handed” – existing in mirror forms. This works especially well in such spiral molecules as DNA.

The scientists used this effect to transform a material containing both metal and biological molecules into a magnet by injecting it with electrons having one particular spin. They then created a working model of computer memory storage. This laboratory prototype of a memory device was built by the teams of Prof. Naaman and Prof. Yossi Paltiel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. A paper on this research was recently published in Nature Communications.

An application to patent the technology has been filed by the Weizmann Institute’s tech transfer arm, Yeda Research & Development Co., and Hebrew University’s Yissum. If developed for industrial manufacture, it will be faster, smaller, and easier to produce than existing magnetic memory devices, and suitable for use in a wide range of computer systems. Eventually, this memory device could replace existing ones.


Prof. Ron Naaman is supported by the Nancy and Stephen Grand Research Center for Sensors and Security which he heads, the Benoziyo Endowment Fund for the Advancement of Science, and the European Research Council. He is the incumbent of the Aryeh and Mintzi Katzman Professorial Chair.