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Move Over Giant Hard Drives, Scientists Store 1TB of Data in a Spoon of Liquid

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Digital-Colloids-640x353Advances in the field of nanotechnology have managed to completely transform our portable electronic gadgets from what they used to be. The most fascinating part is, the new and improved technologies, are not only better, but also cooler. After all, who wouldn’t want to be able to store the entire content of their laptop, in a water bottle?

Scientists from University of Michigan and New York University developed a new type of information storage device that works just as any other regular hard drive, only that this one stores data in a liquid medium. The technology known as “wet computing” works when plastic nanoparticles are deposited in a liquid, to form clusters. These clusters have the capacity to store as much as 1TB of information in only a spoon-full of liquid.

Sharon Glotzer, David Pine and their team, designed special dimpled nanoparticles, which do not dissolve permanently when placed in solution, and maintain their properties. When the liquid is heated up, the particles cluster in groups of four or more around a central sphere. With the addition of thermal energy, the team observed that the particles reposition themselves around that central sphere just like regular atoms in molecules (here is a short demo video). Depending on the way the particles position themselves, they can be read as either 1 or 0, encoding single bit of data per cluster.

In their article, published in the journal Soft Matter, the authors explain that the technique is just like a regular biological process found in living cells. Unfortunately, they are still a long way away from developing a fully functional liquid hard drive, at a usable scale. The challenge now is to find a way to prevent the clusters from changing their shapes when placed in bigger volume of liquid.

It is still not clear when such technology would be made available, if ever, so for now, we should stay put and make sure our solid hard drives are not too far.

Image (c) Soft Matter

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