Sometimes the search for new ways of storing information forces scientists to discover hitherto unknown properties of familiar things. For example, everyone knows that the "classical" unit of information storage is a bit. In quantum systems – the quantum bit (qubit). But scientists from the Physico-Chemical Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences discovered a new unit of information: the chemical bit, which is three separate droplets of chemical reagents located relative to each other in such a way that the reactions that take place inside are data carriers.
Dr. Konrad Gizinsky's scientific team and Professor Jiri Gorecki are in charge of the discovery. The new unit of information was called "chit" – the union of the English words "chemical" and "bit". In customary physical memory, bits can take the value 1 and 0. They are recorded, stored and read using electric current, magnetic field, laser action and other phenomena, all of which can be combined with the general term "physical impact". Quantum computers use quantum superposition and quantum entanglement for data operations.
But for the transfer and processing of data in chemical memory, chemical processes are used that take place during the cyclic reactions of Belousov-Zhabotinsky. The peculiarity of these reactions is that as soon as the first reaction cycle is completed, the next one immediately begins. And the raw materials needed for the next stage are fully formed in the course of the previous one. Of course, such reactions fade with time, but hundreds of cycles may be required to completely stop them.
Polish researchers used Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction variant for their developments, where each cycle was accompanied by a change in the color of the solution in order to better monitor the course of the reaction. In addition, a ruthenium-based inhibitor was added to the solution. When illuminated with blue light, due to ruthenium, the reaction was stopped. In their experiments, scientists have investigated many options for the mutual arrangement of droplets of a solution, changing their number. As a result, the best results were shown by a system of three drops of different sizes. It was possible to reveal that if a system of three droplets enters one of the states of rotational propagation of the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reactions, this state remains stable for a long time. At the same time, the correct combination of a sequence of pulses of light with a certain duration allows one to obtain the required direction of rotation of the reaction fronts, which is a cell for storing one bit of information.
At the moment, the information storage time is from 18.7 to 19.5 seconds, but in the case of continuing research this time can significantly increase. In addition, the chemical bit can be found not only in the value 0 and 1, but also in the third meaning, which can also be used in the future to improve technology.