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Fundamentals

The Future of Digital Data Storage Lies in DNA

How can something that has existed much longer than mankind itself solve one of our most pressing and significant problems today?

https://www.cpomagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/big-data-brings-challenges-beyond-the-capabilities-of-traditional-siems_1500.jpg

How can something that has existed much longer than mankind itself solve one of our most pressing and significant problems today?

HOW IS DIGITAL DATA CURRENTLY STORED?

Before learning about storing data in DNA, it’s important to understand how it’s stored right now, in our computers, tablets, and cellphones.

https://d.newsweek.com/en/full/345189/06-26-datastorage-01.jpg

WHAT IS DNA STORAGE?

Not only is DNA the oldest material capable of storing data, but also the one with the largest storage capacity. Our entire genome is encoded in our DNA, making it a natural carrier of all genetic information. But why stop there? Couldn’t DNA hold other kinds of information?

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HOW IS DIGITAL DATA STORED IN DNA?

Remember how text and photos must be converted to binary values in order to be stored on computers? Well, this binary data can then be turned into the building blocks of DNA (also known as, nucleotides or bases)! By mapping bits to either A, C, G or T, data can be encoded in a sequence. Thus, 00 becomes A, 10 becomes C, 01 becomes G and 11 becomes T. If “DNA” is 01000100 01001110 01000001, it is consequently converted to GAGAGATCGAAG.

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES OF DNA STORAGE?

At the moment, barriers to viable DNA digital data storage are cost and efficiency. The cost of sequencing and synthesizing digital information is still too high for any profit to be made. Additionally, there’s a need for more efficient methods to encode and decode DNA.

https://i.imgur.com/7iGch3c.jpg

WHO ARE THE PIONEERS IN DNA STORAGE?

In 1959, physicist Richard P. Feynman first suggested a link between biology and manufacturing in his lecture There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom: An Invitation to Enter a New Field of Physics.

Video from Microsoft about the 2016 research
Video from the University of Washington about DNA data storage

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF DNA STORAGE?

An advantageous attribute of storing digital data in DNA is its remarkable density. As mentioned, DNA holds our entire genetic information in an incredibly small volume. Since DNA can almost store 1 zettabyte in just one gram, 44 billion terabytes could fit into 44 grams! Thus, DNA is much more efficient than any known form of computer storage. Compared to DNA, data centres generally consume a lot of energy and can store digital data for only a brief amount of time.

TL;DR

  • Because DNA has been storing genetic information for centuries, it’s a great storing media for digital data.
  • Pictures, movies, books, music videos, and documents can be stored in DNA.
  • Challenges to DNA storage are high cost and read-write latency.
  • DNA is energy-efficient, stable, compact, and durable.

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