13 May 1998

Date:         Wed, 13 May 1998 15:51:54 -0500
Sender: Air Force News Service <AFNS@AFPRODUCTS.EASE.LSOFT.COM>
From: "90. USAFnews" <usafnews@AFNEWS.AF.MIL>
Subject:      14may98 - afns

980650.  AFRL-Rome awards contract to convert bacteria for storage

ROME, N.Y. (AFNS) -- Syracuse University researchers will investigate
ways to turn a San Francisco Bay bacteria into a mass storage medium
under terms of a two-year, $2.1 million contract with the Air Force
Research Laboratory Information Directorate.

The contract, "Protein-Based Optical Memory Development," will develop a
prototype optical memory system using an organic protein known as
bacteriorhodopsin, a light-absorbing molecule that is distilled from a
bacteria that grows in salt marshes.

"When you fly into San Francisco and the bay has a purple color, that's
the bacterium in high concentration," said Bernard J. Clarke, program
manager in the directorate's Information and Intelligence Exploitation
Division.  "We hope to use the protein from the bacteria as the active
ingredient in a memory media that will allow us to store the equivalent
of 100,000 books on a single source."

"The crux of the Syracuse University research will be how to encapsulate
the protein so that it retains its qualities without drying up," said
Clarke, adding that three-dimensional optical memory systems using the
protein would be an interim advancement, before memory systems
envisioned using synthetic DNA.

An optical storage media of synthetic DNA, potentially capable of
storing the contents of all American research libraries on a single
disk, was recently selected as a finalist for the 1998 Discover Awards
for Technological Innovation.  The technology was developed by
Nanotronics Inc. of San Diego, Calif., under a Small Business and

Innovative Research contract with the Information Directorate.

"While the DNA storage has greater long-term potential, the use of a
protein-based media is simpler and closer to reality," Clarke said.  "We
hope to turn thick disks or cubes into early 21st century memory vaults
for massive amounts of data."

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