Data on the brain: ‘Wet computing’ liquid implants could boost intelligence
The research was undertaken at the University of Michigan, where researchers believe they can store the data in tiny particles suspended in water – a process known as wet computing. The particles can be encoded in the same 1s and 0s that is normally used on a computer hard drive, but in this case in water.
The team believes that just a spoonful of liquid could store up to a terabyte’s worth of data, which could store thousands of hours of audio or video. In comparison a memory stick of a similar volume can only store tens of gigabytes.
“We wanted to demonstrate that it would be possible to store information in a new way that's different to traditional silicon chips by using nanoparticles,” chemical engineer Sharon Glotzer said, speaking to IBTimes UK.
She used the analogy of a Rubik's Cube to describe how the storage of the nanoparticles, which contain the data, works. “If you imagine nanoparticles like the colors of the cube, all are attached to a central sphere that could twist and turn in different ways in order to arrange all of them,” Glotzer said.
In theory the more “colors” that are added, the greater the potential to think up new and more complicated combinations.
Scientists are excited about this discovery as it could have enormous benefits for human intelligence. Firstly it could help to boost brainpower, as information could be loaded into the brain. In theory learning a language could become much simpler, as a dictionary and grammar could be implanted, thus saving a person thousands of hours of having to recite verbs and remembering words.
The technology could also have medical benefits, with the implants having sensors that could help to monitor glucose levels, or someone’s heart rate. This would mean that sufferers would instantly know if there was a threat to their health.
Glotzer said that a 12-particle memory cluster around a central sphere would be able to have “almost 8 million unique states.” This would be the equivalent of 2.86 bytes of data – enough to encode three characters of text.
“If scientists could count all of those different patterns and understand how to go from one state to another, then it would be possible to encode information,” she said.
The scientists warn that we shouldn’t expect the liquid data to help us with exams or a job interview anytime soon, however, as the tech is still a long way from being adapted to aid humans.