PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] -- DNA molecules are well known as carriers of huge amounts of biological information, and there is growing interest in using DNA in engineered data storage devices that can hold vastly more data than our current hard drives.

A study led by Brown University researchers shows that it's possible to store and retrieve data stored in artificial metabolomes -- arrays of liquid mixtures containing sugars, amino acids and other types of small molecules.

For a paper published in the journal PLOS ONE, the researchers showed that they could encode kilobyte-scale image files into metabolite solutions and read the information back out again.

"This is a proof-of-concept that we hope makes people think about using wider ranges of molecules to store information," said Jacob Rosenstein, a professor in Brown's School of Engineering and senior author of the study.

That creates the potential for molecular systems that not only store data, but also manipulate it -- performing computations within metabolite mixtures.

By 2040, the world will have produced as much as 3 septillion (that's 3 followed by 24 zeros) bits of data by some estimates.

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