The New Digital Storage Gadget – DNA

Some scientists claim that the genetic material which has long held all the information needed to make plants and animals can help us handle the growing storage needs of today’s information society.

Researchers have managed to store all 154 Shakespeare sonnets, a photo, a scientific paper, and a 26-second sound clip from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in a barely visible bit of DNA in a test tube.


How? By converting the ones and zeroes of digital information into the four-letter alphabet of DNA code used to create strands of synthetic DNA. Afterwards machines “read” the DNA molecules and recovered the encoded information; a reading process that take two weeks.

Storing the DNA would be relatively simple, they said: Just put it in a cold, dry and dark place and leave it alone. The problem will be retreiving it. The technology might work in the near term for large archives that have to be kept safe for centuries, like national historical records or huge library holdings, said study co-author Nick Goldman of the institute. In the more distant future,  it could become feasible for consumers to store information they want to have around in 50 years, like wedding photos or videos.

Some might fear the implications of such a breakthrough, putting storage DNA into a living thing. Due to the coding scheme it couldn’t accidentally become part of the genetic machinery of a living thing.

DNA does show advantages for long-term storage, but because of its technical limitations it’s not going to replace your hard drive.