Mon Mar 19 2018

Digital Data storage in DNA

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Digital Data storage in DNA

We are familiar with all storage devices like HDD, SSD, flash memory devices and SD cards of different capacities. But every five years the data increases around 10 folded with lots of photos and videos then we can’t find the place where it safely stored. The mentioned storages are not capable to stored data safely year by year. we need to think and develop new ways to save them and keep them safe as long as we want.

Nature has evolved an incredible information storage medium as DNA. If DNA can store billions of genetic information for thousands of years then it might be capable to store data for decades of years, as like our modern storage devices. Recently, the Harvard and the European Bioinformatics Institute showed that progress in modern DNA manipulation methods could make it possible today. Many research groups, including at the ETH Zurich, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Columbia University are working on this technology. And the University of Washington and Microsoft successfully stored in and retrieved from DNA an amount of 200 megabytes data. It may sound like Sci-Fi but can be possible in reality.

So, at this stage, some questions may arise. Here, we are going to figure out how this can be possible in reality. So let’s start-

How can data be stored in DNA?

There are several ways to do this, but we discuss - how to assign digital data patterns to DNA nucleotides. The four-lettered nucleobase alphabet of DNA these are like - A, C, G, and T can be transformed into binary code. For example as 00 for A, 01 for C, 10 for G and 11 for T. This division is called as DNA Fountain which randomly packaged the strings into droplets, to which they added extra tags to put the file back together.

How to keep stored data safe and secure?

After storing the data we worried about it. It needs to protect from humidity and light. These things could damage the storage data. Now, we have to protect it by dry them out and put them in a container that keeps them cold and blocks water and light. And then retrieve them later.

Now all things go very smoothly but now we need to think how the data can be access?

When we need it back, we have to use a sequencing machine exactly like analysis of genomic DNA in cells. The molecules can be identified by generating a letter sequence for every molecule. And then decode into a binary sequence. When the backup copy will be created, then make duplicate file to refill the storage.


After all, few things still remain, these are:

What are the advantages of this technology?

  • It is ultracompact.

  • It can last hundreds of thousands of years if kept in a cool, dry place.

  • As long as human societies are reading and writing DNA, they will be able to decode it.

  • DNA won’t degrade over time like cassette tapes and CDs, and it won’t become obsolete.

Are there any disadvantages?

  • Everything and theory come with some disadvantages. We have to agree with this and accept it. Here are the defects of this technology-

  • High cost.

  • DNA is significantly harder and slower to read than conventional computer transistors i.e., in terms of access speed it is actually less RAM-like than our average computer SSD or spinning magnetic hard-drive.

These are significant challenges, but we are optimistic because all the relevant technologies are improving rapidly. So, there is no need 100% perfection for DNA technology.

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