New DNA Hard Drives Can Store Entire Library of Congress in a Single Molecule
The Daily Sheeple
August 20th, 2012
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Tired of lugging around that keychain flash drive? Wondering how government will be able to store and rapidly access all of those yottabytes of data they are collecting about you and the other 7 billion people on the planet?
A new data storage method created by researchers at Harvard Medical School in Boston promises to change the shape of the data collection and storage industry forever by converting data into biological bytes stored within the fibers of DNA. The new technology would allow the amount of data stored on a DVD to be sequenced into a biodrive that weighs approximately one trillionth of a gram. It’s the highest known storage density ever devised.
When it comes to storing information, hard drives don’t hold a candle to DNA. Our genetic code packs billions of gigabytes into a single gram. A mere milligram of the molecule could encode the complete text of every book in the Library of Congress and have plenty of room to spare. All of this has been mostly theoreticalâuntil now. In a new study, researchers stored an entire genetics textbook in less than a picogram of DNAâone trillionth of a gramâan advance that could revolutionize our ability to save data.
A few teams have tried to write data into the genomes of living cells. But the approach has a couple of disadvantages. First, cells dieânot a good way to lose your term paper. They also replicate, introducing new mutations over time that can change the data.
To get around these problems, a team led byÂ George Church, a synthetic biologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, created a DNA information-archiving system that uses no cells at all. Instead, an inkjet printer embeds short fragments of chemically synthesized DNA onto the surface of a tiny glass chip. To encode a digital file, researchers divide it into tiny blocks of data and convert these data not into the 1s and 0s of typical digital storage media, but rather into DNAâs four-letter alphabet of As, Cs, Gs, and Ts. Each DNA fragment also contains a digital “barcode” that records its location in the original file. Reading the data requires a DNA sequencer and a computer to reassemble all of the fragments in order and convert them back into digital format. The computer also corrects for errors; each block of data is replicated thousands of times so that any chance glitch can be identified and fixed by comparing it to the other copies.
To demonstrate its system in action, the team used the DNA chips to encode a genetics book co-authored by Church. It worked. After converting the book into DNA and translating it back into digital form, the teamâs system had a raw error rate of only two errors per million bits, amounting to a few single-letter typos. That is on par with DVDs and far better than magnetic hard drives. And because of their tiny size,Â DNA chips are now the storage medium with the highest known information density, the researchers report online today inÂ Science.
Source: Science Now
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