Scientists are trying to determine if DNA could be used to store data.
The demand for more digital storage will always be present. Recently many breakthroughs have been seen where digital storage is concerned. But the hard drives present in our computer cannot challenge the master of all storage. The DNA. DNA is such a complex coding medium which has encoded data about virtually every living thing in nature.
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Scientists are now trying to determine if they can utilize DNA to encode digital data. DNA has a vast capacity to store unlimited data. DNA also has the longevity of any storage medium. The concept was first spoken of at the 250th meeting of the American Chemical Society.
The event took place on Monday. Robert Grass from ETH Zurich presented a proof-of-concept demonstration. The presentation showed how technology could be used to carry out the concept.
"If you go back to medieval times in Europe, we had monks writing in books to transmit information for the future, and some of those books still exist," says Robert Grass, Ph.D. "Now, we save information on hard drives, which wear out in a few decades."
Robert Grass and associates have already encoded DNA with 83 kilobytes of text. According to Grass after DNA was discovered the nature of its coding language was then found. The coding language is very similar to the binary language in the computers.
In computers 0 and 1 are used for encoding while DNA uses four bases A, T, C and G. Both the systems can encode endless amounts of data. But DNA is undeniably better than computers.
"A little after the discovery of the double helix architecture of DNA, people figured out that the coding language of nature is very similar to the binary language we use in computers," says Grass, who is with ETH Zurich. "On a hard drive, we use 0s and 1s to represent data, and in DNA, we have four nucleotides A, C, T and G."
A hard drive the size of a book can hold up to five terabytes of data and may last 50 years. While a single droplet of DNA can hold more than 300,000 terabytes of information, the DNA can also last for hundreds to thousands of years.
"In DNA storage, you have a drop of liquid containing floating molecules encoded with information," Grass says. "Right now, we can read everything that's in that drop. But I can't point to a specific place within the drop and read only one file."
Grass’s team is currently trying to pack tiny packs of DNA into silica spheres. The technology sound phenomenal but there are many obstacles.
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"This interest in preserving information is something we have lost, especially in a digital world," he says. "And that's what I'd like to help address and encourage people to do: Save information we have today for future times."