As computer storage devices cram more information
into ever tinier spaces, researchers working to keep ahead of the curve
are looking at the storage possibilities of single molecules.
Binary information can be stored in any medium that has at least
two distinct states that can represent the 1s and 0s of computer information
and that can be changed, or written, and sensed, or read.
Researchers from the University of California at Irvine have bonded
a pair of molecules to form a molecule that has two states. The components
are photochromic fulgimide and a dye molecule capable of florescence.
The molecule resists accidental erasure, switches quickly, and
could eventually be used to store more than a terabyte of data on a removable
disk, according to the researchers.
Particular wavelengths of light cause the molecule to open and
close, and thus can write information to a series of molecules. When a
molecule is hit with 530-nanometer light it opens, and when it absorbs
400-nanometer light it closes.
Information stored in the molecules can be read without harming
the information using a third wavelength -- 650 nanometers. When open
molecules absorb this wavelength, they fluoresce at 700 nanometers.
Molecular memory could become practical in five to seven years,
according to the researchers. The work appeared in the August 14, 2003
issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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