Researchers store data in artificial molecules

Artificial molecules could one day serve as a computer storage medium. Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of the Ruhr in Bochum have managed to encode data in  metal-organic frameworks , then read them using an atomic tomographic probe.

Future computers could record their data directly at the molecular level, according to a new article published in  Science . Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of the Ruhr in Bochum have developed artificial molecules in which they have managed to encode and then read data .

Scientists encode data into artificial molecules

The researchers were interested in  metal-organic frameworks (MOF), crystalline networks of metal ions with organic ligands , and more particularly MOF-74 . To encode the data, they used ions of cobalt , cadmium , lead and manganese . They managed to synthesize sequences by varying the proportions of metals and temperatures. Each ion is equivalent to one bit of data, and a different value is assigned for each metal .

Data read using an atomic tomographic probe

Until now, there was no method to read the sequence of metal ions in MOFs. The researchers were able to read the data using an atomic tomographic probe , which can read spatial structures and identify ions. This is a first study on this technique. For now, the goal is first to prove the feasibility of the method, and not to build a hard drive .

The interest of these molecules does not stop with the encoding of the data. It would also make it possible to create programmable materials. According to the researchers, MOFs could be used to release drugs at different rates in the body and then destroy the active substance when it is no longer needed. Such materials would even have the ability to capture carbon dioxide in the air and then convert it into raw materials for the chemical industry.