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DARPA’s Molecular Informatics program to develop molecular devices for Military information storage and processing

Molecular electronics, also called moletronics, is the branch of nanotechnology where the molecular building blocks are used for the fabrication of electronic components. It is an interdisciplinary area that spans physics, chemistry, and materials science. The smaller size of the electronic components decreases power consumption while increasing the sensitivity (and sometimes performance) of the device. These have wide range of applications in the work areas of chemistry, physics, electronics and nano electronics, technology, artificial intelligence and medical equipment.

 

As the complexity and volume of global digital data grows, so too does the need for more capable and compact means of processing and storing data. Data storage and processing is central to Department of Defense (DoD) activities across areas including platform design and optimization, sensing, mission planning and logistics, and healthcare. While our current computational architectures remain essential, new complementary approaches are needed to provide advanced capabilities as the complexity and volume of data grows, says DARPA.

 

To address this challenge, DARPA launched its Molecular Informatics program in 2017 , which seeks a new paradigm for data storage, retrieval, and processing. Instead of relying on the binary digital logic of computers based on the Von Neumann architecture, Molecular Informatics aims to investigate and exploit the wide range of structural characteristics and properties of molecules to encode and manipulate data.

 

“Chemistry offers a rich set of properties that we may be able to harness for rapid, scalable information storage and processing,” said Anne Fischer, program manager in DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office. “Millions of molecules exist, and each molecule has a unique three-dimensional atomic structure as well as variables such as shape, size, or even color. This richness provides a vast design space for exploring novel and multi-value ways to encode and process data beyond the 0s and 1s of current logic-based, digital architectures.”

 

DARPA has launched Molecular Informatics program with aim to discover and define future opportunities for molecules in information storage and processing. Molecular Informatics program, seeks a new paradigm for data storage, retrieval, and processing. Instead of relying on the binary digital logic of computers based on the Von Neumann architecture, Molecular Informatics aims to investigate and exploit the wide range of structural characteristics and properties of molecules to encode and manipulate data.

 

Given radical advances in tools and techniques to sense, separate, and manipulate at the molecular scale, what innovations can be injected into information technology, and what will the resulting systems be able to “compute”? By addressing a series of mathematical and computational problems with molecule-based information encoding and processing, Molecular Informatics aims to discover and define future opportunities for molecules in information storage and processing.

 

Molecular Informatics approaches must ultimately enable information processing directly on molecular data so that advantages molecules offer (such as ultrahigh information storage densities and inherently parallel processing) can be realized. Approaches that more fully exploit the rich diversity of molecular structures and properties (e.g., complex molecular mixtures, nonnatural polymers, etc.) and offer capabilities beyond binary, digital encoding and serial, logic based computation are of most interest, says DARPA.

 

“Fundamentally, we want to discover what it means to do ‘computing’ with a molecule in a way that takes all the bounds off of what we know, and lets us do something completely different,” Fischer said. “That’s why we absolutely need the diverse knowledge of many different fields working together to jump into this new molecular space to see what we can discover.”

DARPA’s  Molecular Informatics Program

The Defense Sciences Office (DSO) at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is soliciting innovative research proposals to explore new approaches to store and process information with molecules. Molecules offer a diverse palette of structures and properties that could be harnessed for highly versatile information encoding and computing concepts, potentially enabling advanced capabilities beyond our traditional digital, logic-based approach.

 

Much of our current computing and software infrastructure is based on a 60+ year old paradigm that exploited components of the day—telecommunications switches (and later transistors) and mechanical storage (and later magnetic)—to implement general-purpose computers based on the Von Neumann architecture. While our current computational architectures remain essential, new complementary approaches are needed to provide advanced capabilities as the complexity and volume of data grows. Given radical advances in tools and techniques to sense, separate and manipulate at the molecular scale, what innovations can be injected into information technology, and what will the resulting systems be able to ‘compute’?

 

Molecular storage concepts, such as those based on DNA sequences, have advanced in recent years and show promise for archiving digital data in a format that takes up extremely small physical space, Fischer said. But DNA storage doesn’t allow for rapid retrieval and processing of selected portions of the DNA-encoded data without having to first decode the molecule-based data back into an electronic digital format to use with existing information systems.

 

The Molecular Informatics program seeks to develop completely new approaches to store and process information with molecules. The primary technical challenge posed by the Molecular Informatics program is the integration of dense storage concepts with processing of molecule-encoded information via completely new, non-binary information structures. The intent of the program is to explore such opportunities in the much broader design and encoding space of millions of molecules, which offers far more opportunity than do the four building-block molecules (As, Ts, Cs, and Gs) of DNA.

 

Chemistry offers a yet untapped rich palette of molecular diversity that could be harnessed for scalable information storage and processing. Millions of molecules exist, and each molecule has a unique three-dimensional atomic structure . Properties such as structure, size, charge, polarity, etc., if considered as independently selectable and modifiable variables, may yield a vast design space enabling dense data representations and highly versatile computing concepts that operate outside of our traditional digital, logic-based approach.

 

To achieve its goals, the program will require a diverse, collaborative community of researchers from fields including chemistry, computer and information science, mathematics, and chemical and electrical engineering. These integrated teams will need to answer foundational questions such as: How can data be encoded in molecules? What types of data operations can molecules execute? What does “computation” mean in a molecular context? By addressing mathematical and computational problems that challenge our current capabilities, the Molecular Informatics program aims to discover and define opportunities for the use of molecules in information storage and processing.

 

Anticipated outcomes of the program include: (1) New approaches to represent information and execute computational operations in molecular form; (2) Scalable strategies to extract and process information from large molecular data stores; and (3) Molecular computing concepts that provide capabilities beyond our conventional computational architectures. Such an undertaking requires a diverse, collaborative community of researchers from fields including chemistry, computer and information science, mathematics, and chemical and electrical engineering.

 

These groups will come together to answer questions such as: (1) How and what can we encode in molecules? (2) What types of operations can molecules execute? (3) What are the representational abstractions, mathematical or computational primitives that can describe these operations? (4) What does ‘computation’ mean in a molecular context? (5) What functions can be decided via molecular means and what equivalence might they have to traditional computing methods? and (6) Can we design approaches to compute directly on and with molecular data? By addressing a series of mathematical and computational problems with molecule-based information encoding and processing, Molecular Informatics will discover and define future opportunities for molecules in information storage and processing.

 

By addressing a series of mathematical and computational problems with molecule-based information encoding and processing, Molecular Informatics will discover and define future opportunities for molecules in information storage and processing. Molecular Informatics approaches must ultimately enable information processing directly on molecular data so that advantages molecules offer (such as ultrahigh information storage densities and inherently parallel processing) can be realized. Approaches that more fully exploit the rich diversity of molecular structures and properties (e.g., complex molecular mixtures, nonnatural polymers, etc.) and offer capabilities beyond binary, digital encoding and serial, logic based computation are of most interest.

 

Ideas based on molecular logic gates, biomolecular computing strategies and those that are inherently not scalable, are not within the scope of the Molecular Informatics program. Molecular Informatics performers will validate their information encoding and processing strategies during the first program phase and develop a method to integrate their capabilities and demonstrate processing directly on molecular data in the second program phase (option period).

 

Proposed approaches ultimately must be scalable to encode and process large datasets. Performers will validate their molecular encoding concepts by demonstrating storage densities of at least 1,018 bytes per cubic millimeter with at least 1 gigabyte of data.

 

Brown Team Led by Prof. Rubenstein Is Selected for DARPA Award

A Brown team from Chemistry and Engineering consisting of Profs. Kim, Reda, Rose, Rosenstein, Rubenstein, Sello, and Weber has been selected to negotiate an award with DARPA as part of its Molecular Informatics program. The team hopes to develop the chemical-based software and hardware for molecular computation.

 

Scientists seek to raise efficiency of molecular data storage

A group of University engineers and chemists, led by principal investigators Assistant Professor of Chemistry Brenda Rubenstein ’07 and Assistant Professor of Engineering Jacob Rosenstein ’05, has received a $4.1 million award to analyze new ways to store data using synthetic molecules. The research team has already used 25 unique synthetic molecules to encode and retrieve an 81-bit image and plans to scale up its project with the grant. By using mass spectrometry, Ugi reactions and liquid mechanic robotics, the team aims to make molecular data storage an efficient reality.

“The primary advantage (of molecular storage) is that molecules are much denser — you can store them in a 3D volume,” Rubenstein said. “There’s much more information you can store in a much smaller volume.” She added that small molecules are easier to synthesize and model. The team will use Ugi reactions, which combine four components, to synthesize these molecules.

 

The team plans to complete all of the basic studies in three years, after which they will begin focusing on key aspects of the project, Rubenstein said. The group’s research could have far-reaching implications as “everybody is producing a ton of data … more data than we know how to efficiently manage. There are a lot of people interested in alternative ways of storing and processing large amounts of data,” Rubenstein said. Today’s data is stored in two dimensions, but in a test tube it would be stored in three dimensions. Doing so would help search through large data sets much faster, he added. “We are going to make a hard drive in a test tube.”

Data storage as it exists today also relies heavily on magnetism, said Nick Chilton, a research fellow at the University of Manchester who is unaffiliated with the project. It was first identified that single molecules could implement magnetism to store data in 1993. “We’re in a bit of a new era where molecules are actually looking like it’s a feasible possibility to do these kinds of applications,” he added.

 

Senior Lecturer David Mills at the University of Manchester, who is unaffiliated with the project, spoke on the work of synthetic chemistry as a whole. Chemists have a list of molecules they are interested in designing and have recently begun working to bring them to fruition. “From a synthetic chemist’s point of view, it’s making quite beautiful molecules,” he said.

 

Rosenstein said that he appreciates the interdisciplinary nature of the project. “This is really an interesting project because it combines computing, data and information and chemistry. … It’s using chemistry to do the information processing.”

“I think this project is special to Brown. … Rosenstein and I (were) both Brown undergrads. … Here, you can readily knock on anybody’s door,” Rubenstein said. “That’s really what got this started. … It didn’t matter some of us were in chemistry and some of us were in engineering.”

 

 

References and Resources also include:

http://www.nas.gov.ua/text/EuropeanIntegration/HR001117S0027%20(Molecular%20Informatics).pdf

http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20171116005802/en/Global-Molecular-Electronics-Market—Analysis-Forecasts

http://www.browndailyherald.com/2018/01/31/scientists-seek-raise-efficiency-molecular-data-storage/

 

Cite This Article

 
International Defense Security & Technology (September 29, 2022) DARPA’s Molecular Informatics program to develop molecular devices for Military information storage and processing. Retrieved from https://idstch.com/technology/electronics/darpas-molecular-informatics-program-develop-molecular-devices-military-information-storage-processing/.
"DARPA’s Molecular Informatics program to develop molecular devices for Military information storage and processing." International Defense Security & Technology - September 29, 2022, https://idstch.com/technology/electronics/darpas-molecular-informatics-program-develop-molecular-devices-military-information-storage-processing/
International Defense Security & Technology January 1, 2019 DARPA’s Molecular Informatics program to develop molecular devices for Military information storage and processing., viewed September 29, 2022,<https://idstch.com/technology/electronics/darpas-molecular-informatics-program-develop-molecular-devices-military-information-storage-processing/>
International Defense Security & Technology - DARPA’s Molecular Informatics program to develop molecular devices for Military information storage and processing. [Internet]. [Accessed September 29, 2022]. Available from: https://idstch.com/technology/electronics/darpas-molecular-informatics-program-develop-molecular-devices-military-information-storage-processing/
"DARPA’s Molecular Informatics program to develop molecular devices for Military information storage and processing." International Defense Security & Technology - Accessed September 29, 2022. https://idstch.com/technology/electronics/darpas-molecular-informatics-program-develop-molecular-devices-military-information-storage-processing/
"DARPA’s Molecular Informatics program to develop molecular devices for Military information storage and processing." International Defense Security & Technology [Online]. Available: https://idstch.com/technology/electronics/darpas-molecular-informatics-program-develop-molecular-devices-military-information-storage-processing/. [Accessed: September 29, 2022]

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