Researchers: Hydrogel Blocks Has Potential for Data Storage

American and Chinese chemists are optimistic that hydrogel blocks can be used to develop an innovative data storage option. The report came from the College of Natural Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin. According to the researchers, the polymer-based blocks can facilitate the creation of an alternative way to store and retrieve data.

Aside from jumpstarting research for new data storage and retrieval technology, these cubes are also expected to aid patients. According to researchers, these hydrogels can revolutionize patient monitoring activities.

Utilizing self-healing polymers, these offer a potential storage option as these are able to “form new chemical bonds when old bonds break.” This material is also able to absorb huge amounts of water.

The group of scientists formulated these hydrogels during their research on writing information on various physical items. Chemistry professor Jonathan Sessler says that their study is similar to how QR codes work.

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The team is working on new ways to encode information in color patterns and three-dimensional objects. Sessler said research on three-dimensional printing can significantly increase the amount of data stored in just one object.

Chemists want to use the likeness of the Rubik’s Cube to create a three-dimensional storage device that utilizes color patterns. According to Mathematicians, a Rubik’s cube can have 43 quintillions (or 43 multiplied by 10 to the 18th power) configurations. They believe that a cube would be able to contain a great amount of data.

Researchers: Hydrogel Blocks Has Potential for Data Storage
Photo Credit: cns.utexas.edu

How it works

While blocks that make up the cube are hydrogels, the coloring material used on the blocks is fluorescent dots. To store data, users will need to configure the colors. After 24 hours, the pattern will “[lock] into place.”

Scientists are figuring out a way to make manipulating the blocks easier without compromising the structure. Because the material is self-healing, detaching and reattaching the blocks is predicted to be easier. However, forming new bonds can take a few hours.

One way to do this is by making the bonds weak so that it can be manipulated without using tools. However, the bonds need to be strong enough to maintain the shape.

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As for using the tech in patient care and monitoring, researchers have long ways to go before developing wearable devices. When done successfully, patients and carers will be able to use devices that detect chemical changes. This can be helpful for patients with diabetes and other similar conditions.

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