Rubik's Cube Built from Self-Healing Hydrogels Has Future in Data Storage

A team of chemists from China and the University of Texas at Austin have constructed a cube of colored blocks that looks and acts a lot like a Rubik's Cube®. Unlike the rigid plastic of a real Rubik's Cube, the new cube is made of a self-healing hydrogel, a squishy polymer material that can absorb large amounts of water and form new chemical bonds when old bonds break. The team came up with the structure as part of a larger effort to find new ways to encode information into physical objects. "We're exploring ways to encode information in patterns of color and in three dimensions, theoretically leading to a much higher information density," says UT researcher Jonathan Sessler. The 27 building blocks in the cube were colored using a revolutionary new class of fluorescent dots invented by Ben Zhong Tang, a chemist at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.