US-based researchers from the University of California, Riverside (UCR) have developed an organic material with bi-stable properties they claim could form the basis of a new class of electronic memories and switching devices. The neutral organic radical molecule researched by the team exhibits bi-stability in three physical channels: optical, electrical and magnetic.
Robert Haddon, professor of organic materials chemistry and engineering at UCR, said: "We fabricated the material thinking it should have novel conductivity properties. But when we measured the properties, we discovered the bi-stability.
"When our material switches between states, it switches the conductivity, the amount of light transmitted and the magnetism," he continued. "Engineers are always trying to develop materials that switch between two states in such a way that the switching is manifested in more than one physical channel.
"Ultimately, to develop very sophisticated devices and new technologies, we need materials that combine one or two of three channels. Our material, as far as we know, is the first organic compound that combines all three."
Prof Haddon believes the multifunctional material has the potential to be used as the basis for new types of electronic devices.
The material created by the team, exhibits bi-stability just above room temperature. One state is paramagnetic, insulating and IR-transparent. These properties reverse in the other state, producing a material that is diamagnetic, conducting and IR-opaque.
The team's work is published in Science.