Who needs a hard drive? Scientists develop way to store data in DNA


You remember back in biology class you learned about something called DNA. You know the stuff that, at the molecular level, defines who you are; the stuff inside all living creatures. Yeah, well, scientists have discovered a way to store computer data inside DNA and retrieve it with 100 percent accuracy.

At the most basic level, digital data is stored on hard drives in 1s and 0s. American and British researchers have figured out a way to take those 1s and 0s, translate them into four letters (A, C, G, T — the four nucleobases of DNA), and synthesize actual DNA strands out of them — strands that store the data. Then the DNA strands can be reversed to retrieve the data (i.e. put the data back into 1s and 0s that is readable by a computer) with no data loss what-so-ever.

So far the scientists have successfully done this process with 736 KB of data. In theory, the same process should work for larger amounts of data.

Now, you must be thinking: “why DNA”. There are two main advantages DNA offers over other data storage mechanisms, particularly traditional hard drives:

  • DNA can store a lot of data in very little space. According to the scientists, one gram of DNA can hold one million CDs worth of data.
  • DNA is reliable. DNA is not as fragile as other methods of storage and DNA lasts a very long time.

Of course you shouldn’t expect your next computer to contain a DNA drive instead of a hard drive. While the technology of storing and retrieving data in DNA appears to be viable, it is highly costly to synthesize DNA; cost is holding it back, essentially. However, the researchers who conducted this study estimate that costs will come down enough by 2023 to see DNA being used for storage on a commercial level.

I suppose we all have to wait and find out.

[via DiscoverMag, Original Study]

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