Digital data, including videos, photos and text collected by devices is expected to hit 44 trillion gigabytes by 2020. At its current rate, the world is producing more data than the capacity to store it.
So, obviously, this can soon be a serious problem, but scientists think they have come up with a solution. Researchers say that in the near future it will be possible to store large amounts of data in DNA.
Researchers from the University of Washington and Microsoft Research have developed one of the first complete systems to encode, store and retrieve digital data using DNA molecules, capable of storing information millions of times more compactly than current data storage technologies.
Four images were successfully encoded into DNA snippets. More significantly, the researchers were able to reverse the process and perfectly retrieve the images without losing a single byte of information.
The images, which are encoded as a string of 0’s and 1’s, are converted into a string of A’s, C’s, T’s and G’s—the bases that pair to form DNA. A DNA molecule with that sequence is then chemically synthesized and dried out for storing with billions of other molecules.
“This works for any digital data, not just images,” says Luis Ceze, an associate professor of electrical engineering at the University of Washington and one of the authors of the study. “We used images because images and video tend to take lots of storage space.”
The benefit of this data storage method is that DNA can be extremely long-lasting. The downside is that reading and writing DNA is still very slow, so it’s good for applications where you want to keep information around for a long time but not access it often.
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