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DNA: The next data storage revolution

Data is any information that we generate and put out into the world. However when it comes to data storage it’s all about zeroes and ones. It’s just astounding amounts of numbers that you can find on your computer in hard drives or usb sticks. Engineers and scientists are now using technology to store DNA. This is the next data storage revolution.

Currently synthetic DNA stores this data but in the future we may be able to use organic DNA.

We’re already using organic DNA in our bodies to store infomation. This information is the DNA in our cells.

Synthetic DNA replicates the process of storing data in a digital way.

Synthetic DNA is essentially the same as organic DNA but from a synthetic standpoint. Organic DNA that´s in our bodies look exactly like the molecules made.

There are four things that make up DNA. The four different bases, A, T, G, and C. and it´s the sequences of these base pairs that dictate what’s stored in it.

It is very much a digital manner the way the body stores information. Synthetic DNA uses this as a starting point and looks at the way DNA stores genetic information to see how it can work with digital information instead.

Because human cells have to pack in so much genetic information into the content of DNA the storage system is incredibly efficient.

As an example, the size of a sugar cube can store an exabyte of DNA.

Another feature of DNA is the stability of the molecules. At room temperature this medium will essentially last forever.

The idea of storing information in DNA sounds very modern but the idea has actually been around since the ’50s. Until recently only small amounts of data could be stored due to the expense of writing information into the molecules.

How might that be useful in real life? As an illustration, last year a new machine that prints DNA molecules transferred the entirety of Wikipedia onto synthetic DNA.

It´s not difficult to imagine that in the near future these machines will be connected to data centers. For things that require long-term archival we might store that information in DNA form and access it as required. Thousands of copies can also be made if necessary. This is another characteristic of DNA that’s very advantageous as a data-storage medium.

Digital data production is expanding so fast that within 20 years memory chips could consume nearly a hundred times the anticipated supply of microchip-grade silicon.

A data storage revolution is important to reduce the impact on the environment.

By 2025, accumulated global data will exceed 175 billion trillion bytes.

This amount in theory could be contained in 180 pounds of DNA, in turn housed within a 15-gallon drum.

In 2020 it was proven for the first time that DNA could be synthesised.

DNA won’t replace thumb drives for storing and retrieving data but will be reserved for archival purposes. It can safeguard valuable information about things humanity wants to keep forever.