We are perhaps one step closer to storing data in DNA: NPR



According to a recent estimate, the human race creates or copies 175 exabytes of data every day. That’s 175 billion gigabytes. And internet giants like Google and Facebook are fighting to keep up.

MARK BATHE: They’re building these exabyte data centers that are extremely expensive. So they cost, you know, billions of dollars to build and maintain.


This is Mark Bathe from MIT. He says that one day we will hit a bottleneck. So he and others are looking at a relatively archaic information storage technology, DNA.

BATH: All the data in the world could fit in your morning cup of coffee if it was stored in DNA.

SHAPIRO: DNA is dense, he says. And unlike tapes or CDs that rot in your garage, DNA stores very well under the right conditions. Scientists have extracted DNA over a million years old from frozen Siberian mammoth molars.

KELLY: So how does it work? Well…

KARIN STRAUSS: As we’ve learned in biology, we think of DNA as a double helix, right? And each side of the double helix is ​​a sequence of what we call the bases – the A, T, C, and G.

KELLY: Karin Strauss of Microsoft Research explains that DNA used in data storage is not extracted from living things. Scientists do it in the lab. And they convert a stream of bits – ones and zeros – into the A, T, C, and G of the genetic code.

SHAPIRO: His team has shown that it is theoretically possible to write DNA data at speeds of up to megabytes per second.

STRAUSS: That’s the kind of throughput we see in archive storage devices today. And so we think DNA storage will end up being competitive with these technologies.

SHAPIRO: Their work is published in the journal Science Advances.

KELLY: MIT’s Mark Bathe was not involved in the study, but he says if scientists can solve the problems of cost and effectiveness …

BATH: So, you know, the sky is the limit when it comes to storing everything we’ve ever wanted and needed.

SHAPIRO: The question is, do we really need all of these tweets, TikTok videos, and spam to live on in perpetuity.

KELLY: No (laughs).


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