Landmark data storage solution makes use of synthetic DNA

By Jonathan Crowl

The building blocks of life may one day be used as the building blocks for virtually every type of data you store or attempt to access.

Just as DNA contains an incredible amount of information that dictates every single feature in a living organism, researchers have been attempting to leverage this coding system to create new high-efficiency modes of data storage. As the proliferation of the internet and media-rich content such as video have created a data storage crunch around the world, researchers at Columbia University have set a new record for the amount of data stored in synthetic DNA.

According to ZDNet, the coding system — dubbed the “DNA Fountain” — has been demonstrated to store 215 petabytes of data into a single gram of DNA. This mark is 100 times better than the previous record and is even more of an improvement over traditional storage hardware such as tape, disks or optical solutions. Synthetic DNA is built to last, with a projected lifespan of thousands of years, as long as the data is properly stored.

The primary driver of these data storage improvements is the DNA-based coding system. Instead of the binary method that uses ones and zeroes, researchers now use the four base nucleotides that come together to create DNA. The A, G, C and T nucleotides can be coded to store data in a much more efficient manner.

There are still issues to overcome — primarily the challenge of ensuring data corruption is at a minimum. For now, there’s another big hurdle stopping DNA from becoming the preeminent storage solution: At $3,500 per megabyte, DNA is an extremely expensive data storage option. For DNA storage to become a viable option, researchers will need the cost of DNA synthesis chemistry to drop dramatically.

It’s believed that improved technology will help lower these costs, but until this happens, consumers might want to hold onto their external hard drives.

Written By

Jonathan Crowl


Jonathan Crowl has served as a tech writer and reporter for a number of tech publications and corporations. Specializing in mobile technology and digital startups, he is based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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