Since the introduction of molecular computation1, 2, experimental molecular computational elements have grown3, 4, 5 to encompass small-scale integration6, arithmetic7 and games8, among others. However, the need for a practical application has been pressing. Here we present molecular computational identification (MCID), a demonstration that molecular logic and computation can be applied to a widely relevant issue. Examples of populations that need encoding in the microscopic world are cells in diagnostics or beads in combinatorial chemistry (tags). Taking advantage of the small size9 (about 1 nm) and large 'on/off' output ratios of molecular logic gates and using the great variety of logic types, input chemical combinations, switching thresholds and even gate arrays in addition to colours, we produce unique identifiers for members of populations of small polymer beads (about 100 m) used for synthesis of combinatorial libraries10, 11. Many millions of distinguishable tags become available. This method should be extensible to far smaller objects, with the only requirement being a 'wash and watch' protocol12. Our focus on converting molecular science into technology concerning analog sensors13, 14, turns to digital logic devices in the present work.
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