Experiment points to new spin on storage

In an experiment that could bring the computing world closer to an advanced method of data storage, a team of scientists successfully reproduced an image that was digitally encoded and momentarily stored within a liquid crystal molecule. Researchers at Oklahoma University published details of their "molecular photography" experiment in the Oct. 15 issue of the Journal of Chemical Physics. Although the experiment offers no immediate practical applications, the scientists said they are hopeful their findings will one day help unlock the vast capacity for information storage that theoretically lies dormant within one of nature's basic building blocks.

According to the paper, the group was able to imprint a 32-by-32-pixel pattern onto a molecule and then retrieve it. Made up of 1,024 bits, the pattern was the largest set of data yet written onto, and read from, a molecule.

"We consider this to be a first step for storing a large amount of information in a molecule," said Oklahoma University professor Bing Fung, who co-authored the article with Anatoly Khitrin and Vladimir Ermakov. "Hopefully, it will lead to further development."

Molecules offer writable characteristics in the form of the spin of their constituent atoms. Assuming scientists could precisely control the spin states of those atoms over an extended length of time, those scientists could create a useful binary system for storing data. The molecule used by the Oklahoma team, for example, has only 19 hydrogen atoms, but the spin states of those atoms could be arranged in many different patterns, offering an enormous canvas for encoding zeros and ones.

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News source: c|net

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