Storage of Information Using Small Organic Molecules

Brian J. Cafferty, Alexei S. Ten, Michael J. Fink, Scott Morey, Daniel J. Preston, Milan Mrksich, George M. Whitesides*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Although information is ubiquitous, and its technology arguably among the highest that humankind has produced, its very ubiquity has posed new types of problems. Three that involve storage of information (rather than computation) include its usage of energy, the robustness of stored information over long times, and its ability to resist corruption through tampering. The difficulty in solving these problems using present methods has stimulated interest in the possibilities available through fundamentally different strategies, including storage of information in molecules. Here we show that storage of information in mixtures of readily available, stable, low-molecular-weight molecules offers new approaches to this problem. This procedure uses a common, small set of molecules (here, 32 oligopeptides) to write binary information. It minimizes the time and difficulty of synthesis of new molecules. It also circumvents the challenges of encoding and reading messages in linear macromolecules. We have encoded, written, stored, and read a total of approximately 400 kilobits (both text and images), coded as mixtures of molecules, with greater than 99% recovery of information, written at an average rate of 8 bits/s, and read at a rate of 20 bits/s. This demonstration indicates that organic and analytical chemistry offer many new strategies and capabilities to problems in long-term, zero-energy, robust information storage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)911-916
Number of pages6
JournalACS Central Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 22 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)

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