Data storage

IT startup AtomICs wants to revolutionize data storage

AtomICs, a data storage and computing startup led by university researchers, has won the $25,000 top prize in the 2022 Brown Venture Prize competition, The Herald previously reported. AtomICs is the first team of PhD students and faculty to win a Brown Venture Prize and is led by Dana Biechele-Speziale GS, former Herald columnist Selahaddin Gumus GS, assistant professor of chemistry Brenda Rubenstein ’07 and associate professor of engineering Jacob Rosenstein ’05.

To “revolutionize the way we store and process digital data,” AtomICs aims to develop “new ways to use molecules to carry information” to meet the growing need for data storage, Biechele-Speziale and Gumus in an email to the Herald.

Rubenstein’s Chemistry Lab and Rosenstein’s Engineering Lab have previously collaborated on research at the intersection between molecular science and data. Rubenstein and Rosenstein recruited Beichele-Speziale and Gumus to help commercialize molecular data storage technology to “develop and commercialize this breakthrough technology,” Beichele-Speziale and Gumus wrote.

Biechele-Speziale and Gumus pointed to the limitations of current data storage methods as the motivation for their research.

Data centers are struggling to keep up with our explosive creation of data,” they wrote. Currently, information is stored in solid-state drives that use transistors, which require chip-grade silicon, they added.

As a result, “prior to 2040, demand for microchip-grade silicon will be 10 to 100 times the global supply, leaving the data storage industry facing a huge supply and demand challenge,” they wrote. .

These transistors also produce a “tremendous amount of heat, and to keep data cool, data centers around the world use more electricity per year” than some countries, they added. This cooling process also uses large amounts of water.

Given the already compact size of modern transistors, “conventional technology struggles to make data storage denser,” Beichele-Speziale and Gumus wrote. AtomICs uses “small molecules to enable denser, more durable and longer-term data storage at room temperature compared to conventional and current DNA-based competitors,” they added.

AtomICs was granted a patent for its information storage process, which uses molecules to store image data. A mass spectrometer identifies whether a molecule is present or absent in a chemical solution to create a binary code. “From there, we use new artificial intelligence to interpret these spectra and read our image,” Beichele-Speziale and Gumus wrote.

“In past demonstrations, we’ve been able to show that we can store multiple megabytes of images in molecules,” Rubenstein said. With funding from the venture capital prize, “our first goal will be to extend this to the terabyte regime, and then to show that it is more energy efficient and also cheaper than comparative storage techniques.”

“After the first cycle of storage, … we’re going to dig deeper into how we can actually compute using molecules,” Rosenstein added. Doing the math would involve finding a way to “create molecular circuits in a soft system,” which are biological systems or robotic systems made of flexible materials.

In the long term, “we want to achieve a very compact and very energy-efficient way of storing information in molecules,” Rubenstein said. Ultimately, AtomICs’ goal is to “develop more in-situ molecular computing capabilities,” she added.

“We are very grateful for the support Brown has given us,” Rubenstein added. In addition to providing funding for the project, the University facilitated cooperation between different departments to make the project possible, she added.

“We hope Brown will continue to encourage the idea that scientists make great entrepreneurs,” Beichele-Speziale and Gumus wrote.