Memory, switches, and an OR-port through bistability in chemically fueled crystals

Fabian Schnitter, Benedikt Rieß, Christian Jandl, Job Boekhoven

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The ability to store information in chemical reaction networks is essential for the complex behavior we associate with life. In biology, cellular memory is regulated through transcriptional states that are bistable, i.e., a state that can either be on or off and can be flipped from one to another through a transient signal. Such memory circuits have been realized synthetically through the rewiring of genetic systems in vivo or through the rational design of reaction networks based on DNA and highly evolved enzymes in vitro. Completely bottom-up analogs based on small molecules are rare and hard to design and thus represent a challenge for systems chemistry. In this work, we show that bistability can be designed from a simple non-equilibrium reaction cycle that is coupled to crystallization. The crystals exert the necessary feedback on the reaction cycle required for the bistability resulting in an on-state with assemblies and an off-state without. Each state represents volatile memory that can be stored in continuously stirred tank reactors indefinitely even though molecules are turned over on a minute-timescale. We showcase the system’s abilities by creating a matrix display that can store images and by creating an OR-gate by coupling several switches together.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2816
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


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