L. Mahadevan and researchers at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed a framework to encode memory, in the form of Braille-like dimples and bumps, onto a blank, lattice-free material. The system, according to Prof. Mahadevan, could serve as the basis for small-scale mechanical memories.
A thin elastic shell – shaped like a slightly curved ruler — is compressed by a force on each end. Then, indents are made using a simple stylus, in much the same way that the pages of a traditional Braille book are printed. The shell will “remember” the indent when the force is no longer applied and the indent can be erased by stretching the shell back out. The paper, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) is a first step in showing memories can be stored. The next step, says Mahadevan, it to ask if we can actually compute with them.