Jan 232013

dna strand

It’s easy to get excited about the idea of encoding information in single molecules, which seems to be the ultimate end of the miniaturization that has been driving the electronics industry. But it’s also easy to forget that we’ve been beaten there—by a few billion years. The chemical information present in biomolecules was critical to the origin of life and probably dates back to whatever interesting chemical reactions preceded it.

It’s only within the past few decades, however, that humans have learned to speak DNA. Even then, it took a while to develop the technology needed to synthesize and determine the sequence of large populations of molecules. But we’re there now, and people have started experimenting with putting binary data in biological form. Now, a new study has confirmed the flexibility of the approach by encoding everything from an MP3 to the decoding algorithm into fragments of DNA. The cost analysis done by the authors suggest that the technology may soon be suitable for decade-scale storage, provided current trends continue.

via MP3 files written as DNA with storage density of 2.2 petabytes per gram | Ars Technica.

Aug 212012

Traditional platter-based hard drives and solid state flash drives might dominate the storage landscape today, but in the future, you’ll be storing more data than you could possibly sift through within your very own DNA.

George Church and Sri Kosuri, two Harvard Wyss Institute scientists, have successfully demonstrated a process by which it’s possible to store 700TB of data in one gram of DNA.

At the moment, the stashing and unstashing process for DNA data isn’t exactly simple. Once you’ve translated your binary data into the right sequence of DNA base pairs (A and C for zeros, T and G for ones), you have to turn all of those sequences into DNA itself. Doing so involves standard laboratory techniques, but it takes a while: several days to convert 675 KB of text, pictures, and Javascript into 55,000 DNA strands. Reading it out again with a gene sequencer (another now-standard laboratory technique) takes even longer, and neither the read process nor the write process are particularly cheap, which is why you’d only really want to use DNA storage for archival purposes.

MORE:  Scientists figure how to store 700TB of data in one gram of DNA | DVICE.