DNA: The Future of Data Storage

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DNA: The Future of Data Storage by Mohil Verma TCET

It is well known that deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) stores our human body’s genetic information. However, an increasing number of scientists and futurists have taken inspiration from fossils to reach the most significant breakthrough on how to store information for years without worrying about loss of data. They are recognizing the potential of DNA to store non-genetic information. DNA is made up of four base components
namely: Adenine (A), Guanine (G), Cytosine(C), Thymine (T) [AGCT]. These are considered to be the basic units of DNA.


In our IT industries, the storage of information is in the form of bits (which have two basic units/digits: 0 & 1). For example: (110011101). While DNA
information is stored in strings of four potential base units. For example:

A little after the discovery of the double helix architecture of the DNA, people figured out that the coding language of nature is very much similar to the binary language we use in computers.

So, to store non-genetic information in DNA, we must be able to translate binary data from bits o the four unit structure of DNA data. Although storing of data (encoding) is not difficult, but retrieval of data (decoding) is a bit costly and time-consuming.


DNA storage could be the answer to a uniquely 21st-century problem: information overload. It is estimated that the production of data is set to explode to 160 zettabytes by 2025. Current infrastructure can handle only
a fraction of the coming data deluge, which is expected to consume all of the world’s microchip grade silicon by 2040.

Most digital content ranging from music to satellite images to research files are currently saved on magnetic tape. Although the tape is cheap, it takes up space &needs to be replaced roughly every 10 years.
On the other hand, DNA has an information storage density several orders of magnitude higher than any other known storage technology.

HOW DENSE EXACTLY? Imagine formatting every movie ever made into DNA; it would be smaller than the size of a sugar cube. And it
would last for about 10,000 years.


Synthetic DNA is like real DNA but is created from scratch by scientists. The data stored on synthetic DNA is kept in test tubes, & not attached to any living organism.

Since DNA uses organic matter, DNA data storage will be far more
efficient than our current data storage mechanisms. Data stored in the molecular form will use the only minimum number of atoms necessary for storage.

Due to the efficiency of DNA storage, the storage capacity of DNA is
massive, i.e., a single gram of synthetic DNA can store over 215 petabytes
of data! Also, another benefit is that DNA can be copied endlessly for free.

In 2016, Microsoft set a record by storing 200 megabytes of data in nucleotide strands, the company used 13,448,372 unique pieces of DNA.

They used the technique of mapping one bit to one base pair; bits are
arranged in multidimensional matrices, and sets of molecules represent their locations in each matrix.


The financial and engineering barriers to viable storage of
non-genetic data in DNA are formidable and this technology is in its infancy. Overcoming these barriers would bring about a revolution in data storage and security, allowing massive amounts of data to be stored securely in just a gram of matter. It would also open up futuristic Brain-Computer Interfaces.

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