Researchers are actively investigating the possibility of using DNA strands to store digital information. Why? Because hard drives don’t stay intact for all that many years, but DNA molecules can preserve information for several centuries – at least 2.000 years.
A international team of researchers from various European countries announced a few year ago that they’ve developed DNA molecules that can store as much as 300.000 terabytes of information for anywhere between 2.000 years to one million years.
For comparison, the best hard drives currently available on the market can only store 6 terabytes of information and last for 50 years or less.
And earlier this week, the team behind the project, took their DNA drives idea into the next testing phase. They held a presentation at the 25th edition of the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) and unraveled an example of DNA-encapsulated information which had been subjected to the equivalent of 2.000 years of usage. During all of this time, the sample never once showed an error upon decoding.
Dr. Robert Grass, lead researcher and field expert from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Zurich), gave a statement saying that what he and his team have managed to do is pioneer a method of using glass to encapsulate DNA, and it is the equivalent of creating a fossilized type of data storage.
He went on to add that they’ve also come up with a mathematical algorithm that’s typically used in the field of long-distance radio transmissions, but also helps them eliminate any errors that may occur when they’re trying to decipher data that they’ve written in the DNA molecule’s digital genetic code.
Dr. Grass explained that “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”. While we use ones and zeros to represent data on hard drives, we use the nucleotides G, T, C and A to represent data in DNA strands.
He also shared that the main goal of the project was longevity. He mentioned that some of the books European monks wrote during the Middle Ages still exist to this day, but that the information we all write today on hard drives can’t be expected to last more than a few decades.
But DNA is a superior storage device because it is a very dense type of data storage and has the potential to last extremely long periods of time.
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