Principles of Information Storage in Small-Molecule Mixtures
Molecular data systems have the potential to store information at dramatically higher density than existing electronic media. Some of the first experimental demonstrations of this idea have used DNA, but nature also uses a wide diversity of smaller non-polymeric molecules to preserve, process, and transmit information. In this paper, we present a general framework for quantifying chemical memory, which is not limited to polymers and extends to mixtures of molecules of all types. We show that the theoretical limit for molecular information is two orders of magnitude denser by mass than DNA, although this comes with different practical constraints on total capacity. We experimentally demonstrate kilobyte-scale information storage in mixtures of small synthetic molecules, and we consider some of the new perspectives that will be necessary to harness the information capacity available from the vast non-genomic chemical space.