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DNA Digital Data Storage: The DNA of Things

By Dick Weisinger

DNA is nature’s method of data storage. New Scientist estimates that 1 gram of DNA could hold up to 455 exabytes of data, more than all the data currently held by Google and Facebook combined. DNA is highly compact and can be very stable.

Scientists are beginning to look at DNA as a potential storage medium. The current issues with the technique are currently the costs and the speed of reading and writing DNA.

Recently researchers have experimented with DNA encoding. For example, University of Washington put one gigabyte of books from Project Gutenberg into DNA, and a startup last year encoded all 16 Gigabytes of Wikipedia.

More recently, researchers at ETH Zurich have experimented with embedding data in DNA that can be included in everyday objects.

Robert Grass, Professor at the Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences, said that “with this method, we can integrate 3D-printing instructions into an object, so that after decades or even centuries, it will be possible to obtain those instructions directly from the object itself.”

The technology could be used as a marker and included in materials as a way to identify the material, the manufacturer and other information.

Yaniv Erlich, an Israeli computer scientist, said that “all other known forms of storage have a fixed geometry: a hard drive has to look like a hard drive, a CD like a CD. You can’t change the form without losing information. DNA is currently the only data storage medium that can also exist as a liquid, which allows us to insert it into objects of any shape.”

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