Science and Engineering

University of Texas at Austin

Eric Anslyn, Ananth Dodabalapur, Praveen Pasupathy 
Austin, TX
June 2020

Sequence-defined polymers (SDPs) for information storage and retrieval are pursued primarily using DNA.  While DNA has advantages for these purposes, its foremost disadvantage is the inability to conveniently interface with devices and integrated circuits (ICs).  This is challenging for all SDPs, as it requires electronic states that can be both controlled and read by ICs.  This multidisciplinary team of researchers believes that such an interface can be developed with their proposed innovation of using electrochemically active polymer side chains.  The team is uniquely positioned to design, fabricate, and exploit SDPs with electronics.  They will pursue sequence-defined oligourethanes (OUs) embedded in a hybrid synaptic device that functions as a Hebbian synapse enabling neuromorphic networks based on a non-von Neumann computing architecture.  The device also enables electronic readout of OUs providing a new method of molecular encoding.  Beyond directly interfacing with electronics, the OUs have been designed to be chemically responsive (to artificial neurotransmitters) and emulate favorable features of nucleic acids: 1) a high-yielding synthesis (writing), 2) replication (copying) due to incorporation of tunable orthogonal reversible covalent bonds, 3) sequencing (reading) due to a thermally induced self-immolation process, and 4) information dense due to a base-8 system.  The team aims to create the scientific framework and tools for realizing this electronic-molecular information encoding and exchange.  If successful, this work will demonstrate that chemically responsive, electrochemically active SDPs can exchange information with ICs, and lay the foundation for the use of SDPs far beyond information storage, i.e. neuromorphic computing, molecular steganography, and possibly cryptography.

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