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GOO FROM SWAMP IS EYED FOR COMPUTER DATA STORAGE

If Robert Birge is right, the purple goo he has been experimenting with could revolutionize the computer industry by turning the computer's brain into jelly.

The goo, produced by swamp-living bacteria, is a protein that has the potential to store mind-boggling amounts of computer data.

In theory, a cube of the protein measuring 3 cubic centimeters could store 1 trillion bytes of information -- 1,000 times more than the most advanced silicon-based storage disk.

"It will work when everything is set up perfectly," said Birge, a Syracuse University professor and director of the Keck Center for Molecular Electronics.

The protein is plentiful and cheap, found in harmless bacteria in salt marshes and easily grown in the laboratory.

The technology uses laser beams to store and retrieve data. The lasers make the protein molecules behave in a regular, predictable cycle that mirrors the binary code that computers read and understand.

Birge and his team have built two large prototypes showing that the technology can work.

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