DNA – The New Hard Drive

It’s difficult to find storage over 3 Terabytes for a PC right now. The limitations of magnetic storage, disk platter speed, and size are making the giant leaps in long term storage less frequent. SSD’s or Solid State Drives are trying to fill the gap with their faster speeds but they have yet to reach the large capacities of mechanical hard drives. So Harvard has come along and learned how to use DNA as storage. They have been able to fit 700 Terabytes of data into a single gram of DNA. That’s about the size of a droplet that could fit on the tip of your pinky. This is at least a thousand times the data density of any other medium ever used and it is the new record holder.

To perform this feat, they used T and G combinations as a binary 1 and A and C as binary 0. They also split the data sections into 96 byte sections with a 19 bit data header representing the address at which the data is stored. Since the data is broken into pieces, the data can be created out of order and read out of order until combined into a single stream of data. This offers several advantages. This type of data storage isn’t linear and can be stored volumetrically in a beaker, glass or whatever shape is handy allowing for greater data density. DNA also has the advantage of being able to stay intact for hundreds of thousands of years, unlike current storage methods.

So how do we read all this DNA data once we’ve encoded it? There are microfluidic chips in modern lab equipment that is able to sequence an entire genome within hours. This is a great step forward since the decoding of the first DNA genome, which took years. While this isn’t particularly fast, I’m sure that it would probably take hours to copy 700 Terabytes sequentially from 233 3 Terabyte drives. It would even take longer to transfer 700 Terabytes from 14,000 Blue-ray discs, probably measured in days or weeks rather than hours. This extreme capacity to store data would mean that we could store all the data that has ever been created in a small room. It would also allow us to record and store every piece of data that is created, instead of just tossing data that we no longer think that we need and recall it decades, centuries, and millennia from when it was stored. If information truly is power, then this could be one of the most powerful discoveries ever.

No comments :

Post a Comment