The geeks in us at Datastor are always searching for what the future of data storage looks like. Especially when you realise that more data has been created in the past 2 years than ever in history. At this rate, we will soon be unable to capture the sheer amount of information we process everyday. So what does the future of data storage look like? Well, some scientists say it looks like DNA. Yes, you read that correctly – we will soon be able to store data in DNA.
Could DNA be the Future of Data Storage?
A science solution
Since 2012, scientists have been working towards a solution which encodes digital data in DNA, in order to create the largest data storage scheme to date. It will have the potential to store 215 million gigabytes in a single gram of DNA. However, as of writing the project is dependent on cost.
As well as being ultra compact, there are many other benefits of using DNA to store data. DNA can last hundreds and thousands of years and won’t degrade over time unlike other data storage solutions such as tapes and CDs.
Although attempts have been made, scientists are yet unable to store more than half of what researchers think DNA can actually handle, which is about 1.8 bits of data per nucleotide of DNA.
Yaniv Erlich, a computer scientist at Columbia University, has been working towards getting closer to the limit and looked at the algorithms that were being used to encode the data. The process started with six files, one of which was a 1895 French film called Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat. The files were converted into binary strings of 1s and 0s and compressed into one master file. The data was then split into short strings of binary code. An algorithm called a DNA fountain was devised which packaged the strings into droplets and the researchers generated a digital list of 72,000 DNA strands.
The files were sent to Twist Bioscience, a startup based in California, where the DNA strands were synthesized. Within two weeks, Erlich received a speck of DNA which stored the files. The work carried out resulted in 1.6 bits of data per nucleotide being stored which is 85% of the theoretical limit meaning that this is the closest researchers have been able to get.
Although we’re heading in the right direction, the breakthrough in storing data in DNA still has a long way to go. It cost $7000 to synthesize the 2 megabytes of data and another $2000 to read it, making it too expensive to implement just yet.
But who knows what is around the corner for data storage?