704TB in DNA: A New Method of Information Storage?
One of the first things you learn in biology is that the nucleic acids, particularly DNA, store the biological blueprint inside an organism’s cells. Scientists have been experimenting with making little circuits and and factories out of DNA, but it’s evident now that we’ve been missing out.
Professor George Church and his team at Harvard University have encoded and copied the professor’s new book entirely into DNA. They stuffed 96 bits into each DNA strand by treating each of the bases (A, T, C, and G) as though they were binary values. The genetic sequence was then synthesised by a microfluidic chip that matched up that sequence with its position in a relevant data set, even when all the DNA strands were out of order.
"My flash drive works just fine," you say? Well, apparently DNA works better. Microscopic DNA can store a gigantic amount of information: 704TB of data fits into a cubic millimeter, or more than you’d get out of a few hundred hard drives. Of course, there are caveats; the processing time is currently too slow for time-sensitive content, and cells with living DNA would destroy the strands too quickly to make them viable for anything more than transfers. All the same, with DNA’s density and lifespan of eons, Professor Church has certainly opened a few interesting doors in biotechnology and broadened technology’s view of information storage.