Harvard and Northwestern University scientists have developed a new data storage approach by using mixtures of fluorescent dyes.
According to Harvard’s George M. Whitesides, Amit A. Nagarkar, Samuel E. Root, Michael J. Fink, Alexei S. Ten, Brian J. Cafferty, Douglas S. Richardson, and Northwestern’s Milan Mrksich, their new strategy could help preserve information over long periods while reducing energy consumption at the same time.
The new process ensures that the fluorescent dyes are deposited onto an epoxy surface in tiny spots with an inkjet printer.
The mixture of dyes at each spot then encodes binary information that can be read with a fluorescent microscope.
Current devices for data storage typically last less than 20 years, and they require substantial energy to maintain stored information.
While other scientists have explored using different molecules, such as DNA or other polymers, to store information at high density and without power, these approaches are limited by factors such as high relative cost and slow read/write speeds.
Whitesides and his colleagues thus embarked on developing a molecular strategy that stores information with high density, fast read/write speeds and acceptable cost.
The researchers chose seven commercially available fluorescent dye molecules that emit light at different wavelengths.
They then used the dyes as bits for American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ACSII) characters, where each bit is a “0” or “1,” depending on whether a particular dye is absent or present, respectively.
A sequence of 0s and 1s was used to encode the first section of a seminal research paper by the renowned scientist Michael Faraday.
The team used an inkjet printer to place the dye mixtures in tiny spots on an epoxy surface, where they became covalently bound.
They then used a fluorescence microscope to read the emission spectra of dye molecules at each spot and decode the message.
Results show that the fluorescent data could be read 1,000 times without a significant loss in intensity.
The scientists also demonstrated the technique’s ability to write and read an image of Faraday.
According to the scientists, the strategy has a read rate of 469 bits/s – the fastest ever reported for any molecular information storage method till date.
Image and content: American Chemical Society