Hybrid Polymers for Storing and Manipulating Digital Data

Storing binary information on synthetic or natural polymer chains is considered the miraculous solution that will enable archiving the rapidly growing amount of digital data on compact, stable and energy-efficient media. However, manipulating this data, erasing it, and rewriting new data remains an unresolved challenge. In an article published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, CNRS chemists demonstrate that combining DNA strands with synthetic polymers lifts this barrier and paves the way towards true molecular hard drives. Read more

Cutting-edge research worldwide, including in France, is revolutionizing data storage with molecular substrates like DNA and synthetic polymers. These breakthrough technologies promise to store massive amounts of data using significantly less space and energy compared to current storage centres. For example, just 140 g of DNA could accommodate the tens of Zettabits of data distributed across the
world on global servers in 2020. And this without the need for cooling or
continuous energy input, and with greater long-term stability than conventional systems, which require frequent rewriting.

Synthetic polymers, simpler to synthesize, manipulate and implement, offer a recent alternative to DNA for storing vast data sets. However, both solutions are currently limited to “cold” data storage, with infrequent access. Manipulating this data, erasing it, and rewriting new sequences, as one can do on a hard drive, still seems a very distant challenge for molecular storage devices.

To tackle this obstacle, CNRS chemists have pioneered an innovative approach using hybrid copolymers comprising a synthetic chain storing digital data sequences that is chemically linked to a DNA strand. Various chains encoding distinct data sequences can be linked to complementary DNA strands, which self-assemble into a double helix that connects the two information sequences together.

Notably, these copolymers
were designed to allow easy and straightforward replacement of one DNA strand linked to a data sequence with another strand encoding different data or none at all. This method, akin to a zipper, enables erasure (strand removal without replacement) or rewriting (strand replacement) of digital information on these hybrid polymers. Published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, these findings pave the way towards molecular storage devices with “read/write” capabilities.

Contact : Jean-François Lutz, Institut de science et d’ingénierie
supramoléculaires (ISIS, CNRS/Université de Strasbourg)

Exchanging and Releasing Information in Synthetic Digital Polymers Using a Strand-Displacement Strategy

Maria Nerantzaki, Claire Husser, Michael Ryckelynck & Jean-François Lutz

Journal of the American
Chemical Society