Researchers from the University of Michigan have developed a way to potentially make humans a little smarter. They have found a new method for storing data in microscopic particles which can be implanted in the brain.
The team discovered they could store digital information on colloidal clusters when they noticed they would switch between two states when placed in a liquid. They outlined their findings in a paper published in the journal Soft Matter.
"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," said lead researcher Sharon Glotzer, a chemical engineer at the University of Michigan.
Glotzer compares the way the new development works to that of a Rubik's Cube. Think of the nanoparticles as the cube's colors, which are all attached to a central sphere that allows them to twist and turn to arrange them.
“I wanted to provide every tool I could to allow another person to interact with and experience these three-dimensional clusters as I experienced them,” said first author of the paper Carolyn Phillips. "This digital colloid idea is really just the first tiny step in a new direction and a new approach to computing and high density information storage. It could make it possible for having different kinds of human computer interfaces or biologically friendly neural implants."
Glotzer added: "If we could enumerate all of those different patterns -- or states -- and understand how you can go from one state to another, then it would be possible to encode information. The more colors you can have, the more states you can have, and the more states you can have, the more information you can store."
One potential application for what Glotzer refers to as "wet computing" is implanting sensors into the body that can detect things like glucose levels to help diabetics better monitor their health. Another use is "passive sensors," which would replace expiration dates on food wrappers to signal when food has gone bad.
"This field of wet computing is so nascent, it's really at the very beginning and so this digital colloid idea is really just the first tiny step in a new direction and a new approach to computing and high density information storage," Glotzer said. "It could make it possible for having different kinds of human computer interfaces or biologically friendly neural implants."
The most interesting use for these nanoparticles would be to help the human brain calculate and understand new information, without the use of computers or calculators. This would give humans the ability to take in information at extremely fast rates.
"Of course, that would take all the fun out of reading books and working things out yourself," said Glotzer. "But you could learn stuff super fast."