First one bit chemical memory unit: The 'chit'

In classical computer science information is stored in bits, in quantum computer science -- in quantum bits, i.e. qubits. Experiments at the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw prove that not only physics, but also chemistry is suitable for storing information. The role of the chemical bit, the 'chit', can be fulfilled by a simple arrangement of three droplets in contact with each other, in which oscillatory reactions occur.

The computer, smartphone, digital camera -- none of these devices could work without memory chips. In typical electronic memory, zero and one are recorded, stored and read by physical phenomena such as the flow of electricity or the change in electrical or magnetic properties of the medium. Dr. Konrad Gizynski and Prof. Jerzy Gorecki from the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IPC PAS) in Warsaw have demonstrated a working memory of a different kind, based on chemical phenomena. A single bit is stored here in three adjoining droplets, between which chemical reaction fronts propagate steadily, cyclically, and in a strictly defined manner.

The chemical foundations of the memory constructed by the IPC PAS researchers is the Belousov-Zhabotinsky (BZ) reaction. The course of the reaction is oscillatory: when one cycle is over, the reagents necessary to start the next cycle are reconstituted in the solution. Before the reaction stops, there are usually several tens to hundreds of oscillations. They are accompanied by a regular change in the colour of the solution, caused by ferroin -- the reaction catalyst. The second catalyst used by the Warsaw researchers was ruthenium. The introduction of ruthenium was of key significance because it causes the BZ reaction to become photosensitive: when the solution is illuminated by blue light it ceases to oscillate. This feature makes it possible to control the course of the reaction.

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