DARPA rolls out molecular data storage project to handle flood of information

U.S. military re- searchers have outlined a plan for industry to develop completely new kinds of data storage technologies that operate on the molecular and chemical level to handle vast streams of information from reconnaissance, electronic warfare (EW), signals intelligence (SIGINT), persistent surveillance, and other data-intensive military applications.

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ARLINGTON, Va. - U.S. military re- searchers have outlined a plan for industry to develop completely new kinds of data storage technologies that operate on the molecular and chemical level to handle vast streams of information from reconnaissance, electronic warfare (EW), signals intelligence (SIGINT), persistent surveillance, and other data-intensive military applications.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) briefed industry earlier this month on the Molecular Informatics project, which seeks to develop and test ways to store and process information with molecules.

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DARPA researchers are working with industry to develop information technologies that store data on the molecular level.

Data storage and processing is central to U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) activities across areas like platform design and optimization, sensing, mission planning and logistics, and health care.

While current computational architectures remain essential, new complementary approaches are necessary to provide advanced capabilities as the complexity and volume of data grows, DARPA researchers explain.

Chemistry offers a yet-untapped source of molecular diversity that could be harnessed for scalable information storage and processing.

By manipulating properties such as structure, size, charge, and polarity, researchers may develop a vast design space enabling dense data representations and highly versatile computing concepts that operate outside of the traditional digital and logic-based approach.

The Molecular Informatics program seeks to answer questions such as:

  • How and what can we encode in molecules?
  • What types of operations can molecules execute?
  • What are the representational abstractions, mathematical or computational primitives, that can describe these operations?
  • What does 'computation' mean in a molecular context?
  • What functions can be decided via molecular means and what equivalence might they have to traditional computing methods?
  • 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.

A formal solicitation for the DARPA Molecular Informatics program was to be released sometime this month. DARPA Researchers are encouraging participation by non-traditional proposers such as small businesses, academic and research institutions, and first-time government contractors.

E-mail questions or concerns to DARPA's Anne Fischer, the Molecular Informatics program manager, at MolecularInformatics@darpa.mil.

More information is online at www.fbo.gov/spg/ODA/DARPA/CMO/DARPA-SN-17-33/listing.html.

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