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Scientists discover that you can store data on metabolic molecules

By Kenny Yeo - on 8 Jul 2019, 10:36am

Scientists discover that you can store data on metabolic molecules

Crystals of creatine phospate, a metabolite that is similar to those use to store digital data. (Image source: New Scientist)

Scientists at Brown University have discovered that it is possible to use solution containing sugars, amino acids, and other small molecules.

This isn't the first time scientists have used organic material to store data. Scientists at Catalog, a Harvard Life Lab, previously showed off a method to store data using DNA.

In essence, the presence or absence of a given molecule equals one bit of data and the complexity of the solution determines the amount of data it can hold.

The scientists were mostly successful in their endeavor. They used solutions to store images of an anchor, an Egyptian cat, and an ibex, and they could retrieve data with 99% accuracy — which is promising but not ideal.

Obviously, there's still work to be done but the scientists say these solutions have some advantages.

The solutions do not need energy to hold data and can store their data for years depending on environmental conditions.

Also, compared to DNA, these metabolite solutions are smaller and there is a wider variety of them, meaning they can store data more densely than DNA.

Apart from improving the reliability and accuracy of this method, the scientists also say that the size of the analysis hardware needs to be shrunk before it can be employed outside the lab.

Currently, the data stored is being retrieved using a mass spectrometer, which is large and also expensive.

Scientists are currently looking to find new storage media as conventional hard drives and solid-state drives have limitations that could prove tricky to overcome in the future as we create even more content.

Source: Brown University via New Scientist

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