Repurposing Waste Chemicals for Sustainable and Durable Molecular Data Storage


Molecular data storage offers the intriguing possibility of higher theoretical density and longer lifetimes than today’s electronic memory devices. Some demonstrations have used deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), but bottlenecks in nucleic acid synthesis continue to make DNA data storage orders of magnitude more expensive than electronic storage media. Additionally, despite its potential for long-term storage, DNA faces durability challenges from environmental degradation. In this work, we demonstrate nongenomic molecular data storage using molecular libraries redirected from chemical waste streams. This approach requires no synthetic effort and can be implemented by using molecules that have a minimal associated cost. While the technique is agnostic about the exact molecular content of its inputs, we confirmed that some sources contained poly fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which persist for long periods in the natural environment and could offer extremely durable information storage as well as environmental benefits. These demonstrations provide a perspective on some of the valuable possibilities for nongenomic molecular information systems.

ACS Omega, 9: 18, 19904–19910 (2024).
Brenda Rubenstein
Brenda Rubenstein
Associate Professor of Chemistry and Physics