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Data Storage on Dna Can Keep It Safe For Centuries

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A machine that can turn one DNA strand into millions.

Two research teams have separately demonstrated the encoding of information in synthetic DNA molecules.

Credit: David Ryder/The New York Times

Two separate recent experiments demonstrated the possibilities of encoding information in synthetic DNA molecules.

The potential benefits of the technology include vastly greater longevity than current data storage media.

Researchers believe it will soon be possible to create new hybrid storage systems thanks to the falling costs of synthetic DNA generation and sequencing. A project between the University of Washington and Microsoft  combined a desktop DNA sequencer with equipment used to amplify DNA fragments by producing billions of duplicates. The researchers say the prototype data-archiving system could be used for the long-term storage of digitized movies and medical images.

They and another research team at the University of Illinois report successful storage on and retrieval of specific files from DNA. The researchers note rapid, efficient amplification of specific DNA strands via polymerase chain reaction can ease information retrieval.

The University of Washington/Microsoft group thinks DNA's immense archival capacity makes it better suited for data storage than rewriting. In partnership with Twist Bioscience, the team plans to expedite production of custom DNA strands by scaling down the reaction for creating synthetic DNA.

Both research teams believe a DNA-based storage system could potentially hold all of the world's digital data in about nine liters of solution.

From The New York Times
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Abstracts Copyright © 2015 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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