Scientists Store Data On Synthetic DNA

dna sequence

Researchers have set a new record for synthetic DNA storage.

They managed to place 200 MB of text and video information in a very small space: an artificial string of DNA.

Our cells contain DNA which in turn contains billions of terabytes of information. Harnessing this type of hardcore capabilities for the next generation of data storage has been studied over the last years. Now, a team of researchers from Microsoft in collaboration with the University of Washington has broke new ground.

They stored and retrieved 200 MB of data on strands of DNA. Experts are getting better at shrinking the data storage devices size. At the same time, they’re working on increasing the store capacity. Right now, hundreds of gigabytes of data can be put on a chip that fits in your palm.

However, far more data is produced globally. So our current technology can’t keep up with this pace. The world’s total data is estimated at 44 trillion GB by 2020.

Even cutting edge devices are only short term solutions to the data problem. Hard drives, optical storage like DVDs and Blu-Ray discs may be subject to damage and degradation, and they have a life span of only a few decades at best.

So, researchers are looking to alternative sources of compressing and keeping data. One is “nature’s hard drive”, the DNA. As our bodies demonstrate, DNA is a very dense storage medium, squeezing in 5.5 petabits  (125,000 GB) of information per cubic millimeter. By that measure, all accessible internet would fit in a space the size of a shoebox.

Under the right conditions, that shoebox could be stored in a vault for any thousands of years, and the synthetic DNA would remain intact. This is exactly what happens with fossilized remains from pre-historic animals, like wooly mammoths. These fossils still contain the animals’ genetic code thousands of years after their species died out. DNA is very versatile and capable of storing information for millennia.

So far, Microsoft has stored the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in 100 languages, the top 100 books of Project Gutenberg and an HD music video. The data measures 200MB in total, confined in a space smaller than the tip of a pencil.

Do you think scientists will break their own record by using synthetic DNA? Leave a comment below!

Image Source – YouTube