New Research on Storing and Preserving Digital Information Using DNA
From the Press Association (via Yahoo News)
DNA could be used to store digital information and preserve essential knowledge for thousands of years, research has shown.Scientists exploring the archiving potential of DNA conducted a test in which error-free data was downloaded after the equivalent of 2,000 years.The next challenge is to find a way of searching for information encoded in strands of DNA floating in a drop of liquid.
In theory, a fraction of an ounce of DNA could store more than 300,000 terabytes of data, said Dr Grass. And archaeological finds had shown that DNA dating back hundreds of thousands of years can still be sequenced today.
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At the same time, digital technology has spurred an explosion in the amount of information available at any given moment. Any new techniques scientists develop to preserve even parts of our digital universe would have to be extremely small. This is where DNA comes in.
“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,” says Grass, who is with ETH Zurich. “On a hard drive, we use 0s and 1s to represent data, and in DNA, we have four nucleotides A, C, T and G.”
But DNA has two major advantages over hard drives: size and durability. An external hard drive about the size of a paperback book can back up five terabytes of information and might last 50 years. In theory, a fraction of an ounce of DNA could store more than 300,000 terabytes. And, from archaeological finds, scientists know that DNA from hundreds of thousands of years ago can still be sequenced today.
A handful of research groups are exploring methods to take advantage of DNA’s storage potential. Grass’ team has encoded DNA with 83 kilobytes of text from the Swiss Federal Charter from 1291 and the Method of Archimedes from the 10th century. They encapsulated the DNA in silica spheres and warmed it to nearly 160 degrees Fahrenheit for one week, which is the equivalent of keeping it for 2,000 years at about 50 degrees. When they decoded it, it was error-free.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com. Gary is also the co-founder of infoDJ an innovation research consultancy supporting corporate product and business model teams with just-in-time fact and insight finding.