Called “DNA Fountain,” two researchers have discovered a way to store large files of data inside DNA nucleotides. According to a recent study published in the journal Science, Researchers Yaniv Elrich and Diana Zielinski were able to store “six files into 72,000 DNA strands, each 200 bases long.” That’s not all they stored. They also added a full operating system, an 1895 French film, an amazon gift card, a study by information theorist Claude Shannon, a computer virus and finally a Pioneer plaque. Bottom line: DNA has the potential to provide large capacity information storage.
DNA Capable of Storing Volumes of Data
Since DNA is considered an excellent medium to store digital information – in the fact that it doesn’t degrade with time and it’s a compact – scientists are intrigued by its potential to store volumes of data. According to Futurism, “just four grams of DNA can contain years worth of information produced by all of humanity combined.” This untapped resource is the reason behind Microsoft’s perpetual investment into DNA storage research.
The DNA Fountain Storage Strategy
When asked how they were able to use DNA to store data, Elrich told ResearchGate, “We mapped bits of the files to DNA nucleotides. Then, we synthesized these nucleotides and stored the molecules in a test tube.” With a strategy called DNA Fountain, Elrich and Zielinski used “mathematical coding theory allowing them to achieve optimal packing.” This, according to Elrich, was “the most challenging aspect of the study.”
Using state-of-the-art DNA sequencing technology and a translation software program, the researchers were able to transform the genetic code back to binary. “To retrieve the information, we sequenced the molecules,” Elrich said. The retrieval process was a success – all file content, from French film to Amazon card, were restored to their original format.
From reaching a density of 215 Petabytes per gram of DNA to its ability to last over 100 years, DNA is far superior to traditional media sources. “DNA has been around for 3 billion years,” Elrich said. “And humanity is unlikely to lose its ability to read these molecules. If it does, we all have much bigger problems than data storage.”
The Future of Data Storage
Does that mean revolutionary cloud-based storage companies, like OpenDrive, could be a thing of the past? Absolutely not. Since OpenDrive aggregates all the important cloud storage and cloud management features in one simple interface, ease of access will still take precedence over restoring highly-complex DNA strands. That’s still years in the future and who knows what the cost will be to store and then restore big data in DNA nucleotides. Online storage, backup, sync, online editing, easy link sharing, and web and app tools are still ideal for cloud environments.
Asked when this technology could be made available, Elrich said, “I would guess more than a decade. We are still in the early days, but it also took magnetic media years of research and development before it became useful.” One thing is for sure, Elrich and Zielinski’s DNA Fountain storage strategy is poised to disrupt the data storage industry. It’s just a matter of when and if it can extend to the consumer marketplace.