The world’s first “silk hard disk” comes out: implantable in the human body, controllable destruction

With the development of science and technology and the progress of civilization, human activities are more and more dependent on information, so the amount of information generated is increasing exponentially, the types of information are becoming more and more diverse, and the conditions for information storage are becoming more and more Harsh, current semiconductor storage technology is increasingly difficult to meet the growing demand for information storage. The integration of life science and semiconductor technology has brought new ideas to information storage, and various storage technologies based on biological media have emerged, such as high-capacity DNA storage technology and oligopeptide storage technology.

The world’s first “silk hard disk” comes out: implantable in the human body, controllable destruction

Photo courtesy of cocoon respondents

Researcher Tao Hu and Assistant Researcher Zhou Zhitao of the Shanghai Institute of Microsystems, Chinese Academy of Sciences, together with Professor Liu Mengkun from Stony Brook University of New York and Li Wei from the University of Texas at Austin, developed the world’s first natural biological protein hard disk storage – silk hard disk, which realizes silk-based hard disk storage. High-capacity biological storage technology for proteins. This storage technology uses natural silk protein with good biocompatibility, easy doping and functionalization, and controllable degradation rate as the information storage medium, and near-field infrared nanolithography technology as the digital information writing method.

So far, the team has used this technique to achieve proof-of-principle for the accurate recording, storage and “reading” of image and audio files. The related results were published in the internationally renowned journal Nature Nanotechnology in the form of a long article with the title of “A rewritable optical storage medium of silk proteins using near-field nano-optics”, and the related technology has also applied for an invention patent.

The world’s first “silk hard disk” comes out: implantable in the human body, controllable destruction

Thanks to the characteristics of silk protein, combined with high-precision near-field fast read and write methods, silk protein memory has the following advantages: 1) Large storage capacity (~ 64 GB/inch2); 2) In-situ can be repeatedly erased for many times Writing; 3) It can work stably for a long time in harsh environments such as high humidity (90 RH%), high magnetic field (7 T) or strong radiation (25 kGy); 4) It can store binary digital information and data directly related to life activities at the same time. Biological information; 5) It can be implanted into the organism for permanent preservation, or it can be degraded in a controlled manner within a preset time.

The world’s first “silk hard disk” comes out: implantable in the human body, controllable destruction

Figure 1. Silk protein information storage technology based on near-field infrared nanolithography

Researcher Tao Hu, director of the 2020 Frontier Laboratory of the Shanghai Institute of Microsystems, as the initiator and main inventor of this technology, said: “As a new high-capacity and high-reliability storage technology, silk protein memory can not only be similar to ordinary semiconductor hard disks. It can store digital information in that way; it can also provide a powerful platform for the storage of active biological information, which is used to collect and store biological information, and store human DNA and blood samples at the same time; It is used for information confidentiality. In addition, since the silk protein memory is easily doped with various functional molecules for functionalization, the dimension of information storage can be increased. In the future, through the continuous optimization and improvement of the storage capacity and reading and writing rate of the silk protein memory, this technology It has the potential to become the next-generation high-capacity, high-reliability information storage technology.”

Figure 2. Advantages of fibroin memory

Professor Mengkun Liu from the State University of New York at Stony Brook said, “Compared with traditional UV lithography and electron beam lithography, near-field optical technology based on atomic force microscopy provides in-situ processing of biomaterials at the nanoscale. And characterization provides the possibility to modify the silk protein by focusing infrared light at a very small scale through the nano-needle tip to achieve the purpose of information storage and reading. Later, it can be further combined with multi-probe parallel processing technology and fast-moving platform , and has the potential to achieve storage density and read and write speed comparable to commercial hard disk storage in the future.”


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