Home Uncategorized A DNA hard drive can store data for 1 MILLION years

A DNA hard drive can store data for 1 MILLION years

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Scientists have found a way to preserve the world’s data for millions of years, Just one gram of DNA can store the equivalent of 14,000 Blu-ray discs. 

The hard drives and discs that we
use to store all this information are frustratingly vulnerable, and
unlikely to survive more than a couple of hundred years.
Fortunately
scientists have built a DNA time capsule that’s capable of safely
preserving all of our data for more than a million years. And we’re kind
of freaking out over how huge the implications are.
Researchers already knew that DNA was ideal for data storage. In
theory, just 1 gram of DNA is capable of holding 455 exabytes, which is
the equivalent of one billion gigabytes, and more than enough space to
store all of Google, Facebook and pretty much everyone else’s data.
Storing
information on DNA is also surprisingly simple – researchers just need
to program the A and C base pairs of DNA as a binary ‘0’, and the T and G
as a ‘1’. But the researchers, led by Robert Grass from ETH Zürich in
Switzerland, wanted to find out just how long this data would last.
DNA can definitely be durable – in 2013 scientists managed to sequence
genetic code from 700,000-year-old horse bones – but it has to be
preserved in pretty specific conditions, otherwise it can change and
break down as it’s exposed to the environment. So Glass’s team decided
to try to replicate a fossil, to see if it would help them create a
long-lasting DNA hard drive.

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“Similar to these bones, we wanted to protect the information-bearing DNA with a synthetic ‘fossil’ shell,” explained Grass in a press release.
In order to do that, the team encoded Switzerland’s Federal Charter of 1921 and The Methods of Mechanical Theorems
by Archimedes onto a DNA strand – a total of 83 kilobytes of data. They
then encapsulated the DNA into tiny glass spheres, which were around
150 nanometres in diameter. 
The researchers compared these glass
spheres against other packaging methods by exposing them to temperatures
of between 60 and 70 degrees Celsius – conditions that replicated the
chemical degradation that would usually occur over hundreds of years,
all crammed into a few destructive weeks.
They found that even
after this sped-up degradation process, the DNA inside the glass spheres
could easily be extracted using a fluoride solution, and the data on it
could still be read. In fact, these glass casings seem to work much
like fossilised bones.
Based on their results, which have been published in Angewandte Chemie, the
team predicts that data stored on DNA could survive over a million
years if it was stored in temperatures below -18 degrees Celsius, for
example, in a facility like the Svalbard Global Seed Vault,
which is also known as the ‘Doomsday Vault’. They say it could last
2,000 years if stored somewhere less secure at 10 degrees Celsius – a
similar average temperature to central Europe.
The tricky part of
this whole process is that the data stored in DNA needs to be read
properly in order for future civilisations to be able to access it. And
despite advances in sequencing technology, errors still arise from DNA
sequencing.
The team overcame this by embedding a method for
correcting any errors within the glass spheres, based on the
Reed-Solomon Codes, which help researchers transmit data over long
distances. 
Basically, additional information is attached to the actual
data, to help people read it on the other end. This worked so well
that even after the test DNA had been kept in scorching and degrading
conditions for a month, the team could still read Switzerland’s Federal
Charter and Archimedes’ wise words at the end of the study.
The
other major problem, which is not so easy to overcome, is the fact that
storing information on DNA is still extremely expensive – it cost around
US$1,500 just to encode the 83 kilobytes of data used in this study.
Hopefully this cost will go down as we get better at writing information
onto DNA. Rsearchers out there are already storing books onto DNA, and
the band OK Go are also writing their new album into genetic information.
The
question is, what would Grass store, now that he’s developed this
mind-blowing time capsule? The documents in Unesco’s Memory of the World
Programme, and… Wikipedia, he says.
“Many entries are described
in detail, others less so. This probably provides a good overview of
what our society knows, what occupies it and to what extent,” said Grass
in the release.

Source: New Scientist

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