Your digital life soon to get DNA storage

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Digital Data Storage (Image: Pixabay)
Digital Data Storage (Image: Pixabay)

New Delhi : With people opting for more and more digital services, the everyday data production and its maintenance require new solutions. Currently, around 2.5 million gigabyte data is produced daily and is stored in exabyte data centres (an exabyte is 1 billion gigabytes), which can be the size of several football fields and cost around $1 billion to build and maintain.

According to researchers, the solution to this is in the molecule that contains our genetic information: DNA, which is known to store massive amount of data in a very less space.

A coffee mug full of DNA could theoretically store all of the world's data, says Mark Bathe, a professor of biological engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). 

"We need new solutions for storing these massive amounts of data that the world is accumulating, especially the archival data," Bathe said in a paper appeared in the journal Nature Materials.

DNA is much denser than a flash memory and what is interesting is that once a DNA is formed it does not require further energy to stay functional. "You can write the DNA and then store it forever."

Scientists have already demonstrated that they can encode images and pages of text as DNA. 

Bathe and his colleagues have now demonstrated one way to do that, by encapsulating each data file into a 6-micrometer particle of silica, which is labeled with short DNA sequences that reveal the contents. 

Using this approach, the researchers demonstrated that they could accurately pull out individual images stored as DNA sequences from a set of 20 images. 

Given the number of possible labels that could be used, this approach could scale up to 1020 files.

The bigger advantage to using this technology is of its size. Each nucleotide, equivalent to up to two bits, is about 1 cubic nanometer, which means an Exabyte of data can be stored in a space equivalent to your palm.

The only obstacle with the technology is the cost associated to it. Currently it would cost $1 trillion to write one petabyte of data (1 million gigabytes).

Bathe estimated that the cost of DNA synthesis would need to drop by about six orders of magnitude. 

According to him, this will happen within a decade or two, similar to how the cost of storing information on flash drives has dropped dramatically over the past couple of decades. 

"While it may be a while before DNA is viable as a data storage medium, there already exists a pressing need today for low-cost, massive storage solutions for preexisting DNA and RNA samples from Covid-19 testing, human genomic sequencing, and other areas of genomics," Bathe noted.