Liquid Crystals Do A Solid For The World Of Information Storage

Information storage is big business, and paradoxically the smaller a thing you can store information on, the bigger your profile gets. Though the theoretical next smallest storage device was to be liquid crystals such as the ones found in computer monitors, experiments in that area have been one slowly-sinking failboat.

Until now.

Bring on the double-hulled winship of the Tokyo Institute of Technology's Hideo Takezoe. 

Takezoe and friends decided to re-investigate the problem of liquid crystal storage to see why other attempts had failed. The main issue with any liquid crystal storage medium is that  the crystals all need to be pointing the same direction to be of any use. Currently, for things like lighting up television screens, this is accomplished by chemical means or by a "rubbing" of the crystals to all point one way.

Not content to simply rub his own crystal, Takezoe instead decided to shoot lasers at it.  That's the great thing about lasers. Just about every time you shoot one at an object, or person, it does something cool, and this was no exception. Using a laser (or an electric current - but hey - lasers!), the Tokyo team was able to uniformly align all of the liquid crystal molecules in specialized polymer. This allowed them to not only store data throughout the entire substance - unlike on DVDs and CDs in which information is only stored in the top layer, but retrieve that information and rewrite it as necessary. 

Shooting lasers much like this one: For Science!Shooting lasers much like this one: For Science! 

This novel concept, known as "anchoring transition", not only allows for memory retention of data, but also of images without the need for a power source, owing to the fact that the crystals are bi-stable and will keep their orientation in one of two directions. 

In theory,  this means you could make your girlfriend a mix LCD of your favorite Micheal Bolton hits and concert images, then dejectedly erase it and overwrite it with angry Alanis Morissette musings when she dumps you for your bad taste.

Welcome to 2010, loser - where liquid crystals will potentially store everything you could ever have wanted and you're still living alone in your mom's basement.

Livin' the dream man, livin' the dream.

Better capture these memories. Thanks, Hideo.

Source: EurekAlert