A rewritable optical storage medium of silk proteins using near-field nano-optics

W. Lee, Z. Zhou, X. Chen, N. Qin, J. Jiang, K. Liu, M. Liu, T. H. Tao and W. Li

Nature Nanotechnology, online article (2020)
Nanoscale lithography and information storage in biocompatible materials offer possibilities for applications such as bioelectronics and degradable electronics for which traditional semiconductor fabrication techniques cannot be used. Silk fibroin, a natural protein renowned for its strength and biocompatibility, has been widely studied in this context. Here, we present the use of silk film as a biofunctional medium for nanolithography and data storage. Using tip-enhanced near-field infrared nanolithography, we demonstrate versatile manipulation and characterize the topography and conformation of the silk in situ. In particular, we fabricate greyscale and dual-tone nanopatterns with full-width at half-maximum resolutions of ~35 nm, creating an erasable ‘silk drive’ that digital data can be written to or read from. As an optical storage medium, the silk drive can store digital and biological information with a capacity of ~64 GB inch−2 and exhibits long-term stability under various harsh conditions. As a proof-of-principle demonstration, we show that this silk drive can be biofunctionalized to exhibit chromogenic reactions, resistance to bacterial infection and heat-triggered, enzyme-assisted decomposition.