Data storage

Robust long-term data storage technology uses tiny drops of dye

We tend to think of digital storage as pretty permanent, but the reality is that the data you’ve stored on that hard drive, flash drive, or CD-ROM is unlikely to survive more than 20 to 40 years. With that in mind, Harvard researchers have created what they say is a much longer-term data storage alternative using, among other things, spots of bright dye.

In the experimental system, an inkjet printer is used to deposit tiny drops of fluorescent dye onto an epoxy surface, to which they chemically bond. Each stitch is made up of a mixture of up to seven different dye colors. These colors in turn serve as bits for the American standard code for information interchange (ACSII) binary characters – each bit is either a 0 or a 1, depending on whether a specific dye is absent or present, respectively.

When a fluorescence microscope is then used to analyze the different wavelengths of light emitted from these dots, it can tell what colors of dye are present in each, and therefore what character it represents. The system has a read speed of 469 bits per second – which would be the fastest of any molecular information storage method – and it can store 1,407,542 bits in an area of ​​7.2 x 7.2 mm. In addition, the dye data can be read 1000 times without significant loss of fluorescence intensity.

More importantly, scientists believe that data stored this way could remain readable for thousands of years. It would also not be susceptible to water damage, it could not be hacked remotely, it would not be subject to the size limits of existing storage systems, and its storage would not require any energy.

In a test of the technology, the researchers used it to encode the first section of a famous research paper by English scientist Michael Faraday, as well as a JPEG image of the man. The information could then be read with an accuracy rate of 99.6%, which should improve as the system grows further.

“This method could provide access to archival data storage at low cost,” said postdoctoral fellow Amit A. Nagarkar, co-lead author of a paper on the study. “[It] provides access to long-term data storage using existing commercial technologies – inkjet printing and fluorescence microscopy. “

The article was recently published in the journal ACS Central Science. There is more information in the following video.

Spotlight on a new fluorescent data storage technique

Sources: Harvard University, American Chemical Society