Chemical solution shrinks digital data storage

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digital data storage

Case Western Reserve University researchers found a way to possibly store digital data in half the space current systems require.

Computers and other digital devices operate and store data, using a binary code (0and 1). To reduce storage space, engineers have traditionally used existing technology but made it smaller.

According to a new study, researchers demonstrate how commonly used polymer films containing two dyes can optically store data in a quaternary code, potentially requiring about half as much space.

“We’re using chemistry instead of engineering to address data storage, but it’s really complementary to what engineers are doing,” said, Emily Pentzer, study author.

With quaternary storage computer programs need to be written in quaternary code instead of binary code, which would be easy with the system they used. Instead of numerals, the optical-storage system uses the absence of color and three colors produced by the dyes as the symbols representing information.

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dye molecules

To create the system, researchers loaded a small amount of the two dye molecules into a flexible sheet of poly (methyl methacrylate), a polymer film called PMMA. PMMA is clear and colorless in ambient light and temperature.

Cyano-substituted oligo (p-phenyene vinylene) fluoresces green when exposed to heat. Second, o-nitrobenzyl ester of benzoic acid, fluoresces ultramarine when exposed to ultraviolet light. When the overlapping dyes exposed to both heat and UV light, they fluoresce as cyan.

The team wrote code by laying metal or wood templates over the dye-containing film, then applying heat and ultraviolet light.

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The code proved durable, remaining legible even after the film had been rolled, bent, written on with permanent marker, submerged in boiling water and half the surface had been rubbed away with sandpaper.

Researchers now investigating the use of specialized lasers to shrink the spatial resolution and therefore increase the data density.

Researchers also investigating a third dye that can added to different stimuli and remains distinct from the other two. It would allow the research team to store data using a septenary, or seven-symbol code, further shrinking storage.

More information: [Journal of Material Chemistry C]

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