Skip to main content

Molecular data storage could hold every movie ever made on a Rubik’s Cube

data
Scanrail/123RF
Imagine being able to store upward of 200 terabits of data — the equivalent of every Hollywood movie ever — on a device measuring just one-inch square. That is not out of the realms of possibility, based on a new piece of research coming out of the University of Manchester. Scientists there recently demonstrated the ability to control the magnetism of a specific class of molecule to get them to store massive amounts of information. The bad news? To do so you need to keep your data chilled to minus-213 degrees Celsius — or 60 Kelvin.

“We have made a new molecule that holds magnetic information up to 60 K,” Dr. David Mills, a lecturer in the University of Manchester’s School of Chemistry, told Digital Trends. “This eclipses the previous record of 14 K set in 2011 and is now tantalizingly close to the temperature of liquid nitrogen, 77 K. Achieving magnetic information storage in single molecules at this temperature would make molecular data storage technologies economically viable, as liquid nitrogen is cheap and plentiful. We have studied this molecule in detail to understand why it is so much better at holding information than other molecules.”

There is a clear advantage in getting molecules to be able to store bits of binary information since this would make data storage devices much denser than they are at present. That is ideal for a world in which data is generated on an ever-increasing scale. It means that the Earth of, say, 2050 will not have to have as many Google data centers as it currently does McDonald’s.

Don’t get too excited yet, however, as a lot more engineering work needs to be carried out to turn this into a practical technology. It is unlikely that this particular molecule will ever be commercialized but the team is working to make even better magnetic molecules which could be used to carry out this task.

“Understanding in detail why this new molecule has such extraordinary magnetic properties is our current goal, as this will allow us to target new molecules with better performance,” Dr. Nick Chilton, also with the School of Chemistry, told us. “We think this has to do with molecular vibrations and are now trying to understand how these can be controlled.”

For now, you are better off sticking with these storage options. But you can still prepare for the storage world of the future by checking out the researchers’ paper, which was published in Nature.

Editors' Recommendations

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
AI turned Breaking Bad into an anime — and it’s terrifying
Split image of Breaking Bad anime characters.

These days, it seems like there's nothing AI programs can't do. Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence, deepfakes have done digital "face-offs" with Hollywood celebrities in films and TV shows, VFX artists can de-age actors almost instantly, and ChatGPT has learned how to write big-budget screenplays in the blink of an eye. Pretty soon, AI will probably decide who wins at the Oscars.

Within the past year, AI has also been used to generate beautiful works of art in seconds, creating a viral new trend and causing a boon for fan artists everywhere. TikTok user @cyborgism recently broke the internet by posting a clip featuring many AI-generated pictures of Breaking Bad. The theme here is that the characters are depicted as anime characters straight out of the 1980s, and the result is concerning to say the least. Depending on your viewpoint, Breaking Bad AI (my unofficial name for it) shows how technology can either threaten the integrity of original works of art or nurture artistic expression.
What if AI created Breaking Bad as a 1980s anime?
Playing over Metro Boomin's rap remix of the famous "I am the one who knocks" monologue, the video features images of the cast that range from shockingly realistic to full-on exaggerated. The clip currently has over 65,000 likes on TikTok alone, and many other users have shared their thoughts on the art. One user wrote, "Regardless of the repercussions on the entertainment industry, I can't wait for AI to be advanced enough to animate the whole show like this."

Read more
4 simple pieces of tech that helped me run my first marathon
Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar displaying pace information.

The fitness world is littered with opportunities to buy tech aimed at enhancing your physical performance. No matter your sport of choice or personal goals, there's a deep rabbit hole you can go down. It'll cost plenty of money, but the gains can be marginal -- and can honestly just be a distraction from what you should actually be focused on. Running is certainly susceptible to this.

A few months ago, I ran my first-ever marathon. It was an incredible accomplishment I had no idea I'd ever be able to reach, and it's now going to be the first of many I run in my lifetime. And despite my deep-rooted history in tech, and the endless opportunities for being baited into gearing myself up with every last product to help me get through the marathon, I went with a rather simple approach.

Read more
This bracelet helps you fall asleep faster and sleep longer
woman-in-bed-wearing-twilight-apollo-on-ankle

This content was produced in partnership with Apollo Neuroscience.
Have you been struggling to get the recommended seven hours of sleep? It's always frustrating when you get in bed at a reasonable time, then toss and turn for a hours before you actually sleep. The quality of that sleep is important too. If you're waking up multiple times during the night, you're likely not getting the quality REM cycle sleep that truly rejuvenates your body. If traditional remedies like herbal teas and noise machines just aren't helping, maybe it's time to try a modern solution. Enter the Apollo wearable.

Now we understand being a little skeptical. How can a bracelet on your wrist or ankle affect your sleep patterns? Certainly the answer to a better night's sleep can't be so simple. We considered these same things when we first heard of it. We'll dive deeper into the science behind the Apollo wearable, but suffice it to say that many people have experienced deeper, uninterrupted sleep while wearing one.
A non-conventional approach to better sleep

Read more