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Future libraries could be stored in DNA

Posting in Technology

In the future, researchers may use actual DNA as an alternative way to encode data to store entire libraries the size of a pinky finger.

Details about the experiments were published in the journal Nature on Wednesday. It found (theoretically at least) a way to archive data for 50 years or more at scale, making it an attractive replacement for digital media.

The authors included scientists from the UK's European Bioinformatics Institute and employees of Agilent Technologies, a California based measurements solutions maker. The researchers believe that the technique could be commercially viable in about a decade - provided it will be commercialized at all.

There is a need for better storage technology. The variety, velocity and volume of data that businesses are capturing have risen dramatically, but archiving big data can be problematic because digital media requires maintenance. DNA would not, and the science of it appears promising, and its characteristics are a fit.

DNA's ability to encode information at extremely high density is attractive - your own blueprint came from a few tiny cells. Whereas, the entire human genome would take up 1.5 gigabytes of storage space on traditional disk drives. It's also potentially flexible enough to be used beyond archiving. DNA may also become re-writeable, thanks to the efforts of Stanford University researchers.

In May, Stanford's team devised a method to make DNA re-writeable. They transformed the DNA of E. coli into a computer memory system, but only with bits of data. Biological computers - who would have thought?

Thumbnail: Flickr/col&tasha

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— By on January 24, 2013, 11:19 AM PST

David Worthington

Contributing Editor

David Worthington has written for BetaNews, eWeek, PC World, Technologizer and ZDNet. Formerly, he was a senior editor at SD Times. He holds a business degree from Temple University. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure