Futuristic Technology: Liquid-Based Data Storage

According to current information available, the entire world would have produced more or less 3 septillion (which is 3 followed by 24 zeros) bits of data, enough to open the possibility of the planet not having enough chip-grade silicon to store all of it and make sure nothing disappears. This means that we have to innovate to come up with a new alternative, something that will last long, something we’ll have a steady supply of constantly.

One possibility is storing them in small molecules, like DNA, which previous studies have tried. However, none of the results were successful enough.

Researchers from Brown University recently have successfully stored image files in metabolomes that are mixtures of liquids made from amino acids, sugars and a wide range of other molecules.

This opens up the possibility of having a flash drive made from liquid in the future.

Water flash drives?

“It’s not hard to recognize that cells and organisms use small molecules to transmit information, but it can be harder to generalize and quantify,” said researcher Eamonn Kennedy. “We wanted to demonstrate how a metabolome can encode precise digital information.”

The reseach team was able to do this by using different kinds of chemicals in the mixture to encode either a zero or a one, equivalent to one bit of digital data. The number of molecule types present in the liquid also determines how much bits each mixture can store. During the study, the researchers created mixtures that can hold either six bits or 12 bits. Droplets of these are then placed on small metal plates, using a robot arm to encode the data. Once dried, the data can then be easily read out.

Using this new technique, the researchers were able to successfully encode, as well as retrieve, a wide number of image files. All of the files used were no more bigger than two kilobytes. Of course, that’s barely a dot in today’s storage standards. However, the research is still a great proof-of-concept and is definitely a step in the right direction. Potential to scale up is also possible, per the researchers.

cyber data Cyber-criminals have turned to targeting valuable medical records and personnel files. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock