the Earth’s crust, but only pure silicon is utilised to make computer chips, which is rare, accounting for less than 10% of global silicon supply. And we’re gradually draining it. According to one analysis, the data flood could deplete the world’s supply of computer-grade silicon by 2040, posing a serious obstacle to new technology and digital advancement. Improving silicon-refinement procedures is one method to avert this calamity. Furthermore, researchers are looking for alternate data processing and storage materials such as gallium oxide, hafnium diselenide, zirconium diselenide, and graphene.
However, among the alternative materials is deoxyribonucleic acid.
What is DNA Storage?
The genetic information that informs each cell in a living being what to do is stored in DNA. The twisted, ladder-like structure of a DNA molecule is made up of four chemical building components on each side. Nucleotides are the letters A, T, C, and G that makeup DNA. (Adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine are the letters). These letters, in various combinations, spell out the genetic code. The sequence of these letters can be used to store data, transforming DNA into a new form of information technology. In addition, it has a big storage capacity. With the amount of data produced each day, finding a cheaper way to store this huge amount of information is getting increasingly difficult. As a result, scientists have devised an alternate solution to this issue. DNA has a storage capacity of 455 exabytes per gramme (1 exabyte = 1018 bytes).
Pioneers in DNA Storage
Since 2012, scientists have begun storing digital data in DNA. That’s when Harvard University geneticists George Church, Sri Kosuri, and colleagues encoded a 52,000-word book in thousands of DNA fragments, utilising strands of DNA’s four-letter alphabet of A, G, T, and C to encode the digital file’s 0s and 1s. However, their encoding approach was relatively inefficient, storing only 1.28 petabytes per gramme of DNA. Other ways performed better. However, none have been able to store more than half of what researchers believe DNA can realistically manage, which is approximately 1.8 bits of data per nucleotide of DNA.
A team of Microsoft and University of Washington researchers compressed around 200 gigabytes of data into a fraction of a drop of liquid in 2016. They were able to encode and decode books, works of art, and a song, as well as extract and rebuild material from a big pool of DNA.
Twist Bioscience, a synthetic biology company, converted the DNA sequences into the molecules themselves after encoding data into them. The scientists used polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify the strands they intended to retrieve. They took the sample, decoded the DNA, and executed error correction computations when the concentration of a specific sequence rose.
“We’re essentially repurposing it to store digital data — pictures, videos, documents — in a manageable way for hundreds or thousands of years.” says Luis Ceze, a computer science and engineering professor at the University of Washington and the study’s lead investigator.
DNA Storage In Forensic Science
DNA is durable and therefore can store data for long periods of time, it can be utilised to store all forms of data without risk of loss. If this is established, it will make forensic investigations even easier than they are now. Instead of matching sequences, we could gain insight into the life of a perpetrator/suspect if they leave their DNA in the form of blood, hair, skin tissues, and so on.
Ritoza Das discussed the benefits and drawbacks of using DNA as a storage medium, as well as how it can assist alleviate the world’s ever-growing data storage concerns in review paper, titled as “Storing Photos and Other Documents in DNA And Its Use in Forensic Science – A Review”. Because of its durability and ability to store data for longer periods of time than typical storage systems, DNA has become a valuable commodity for scientists. Many procedures and techniques, such as PCR and CRISPR, can be used to encode, decode, and retrieve information from DNA sequences, and how forensic scientists can utilise them to move closer to justice. Although the full scope of its capabilities has yet to be realised, DNA data storage systems have a bright future if properly planned and implemented.
Advantages of DNA Storage
According to Nahla Davies, Without the need of electricity, DNA can be utilised to store data. Given that energy expenses are currently among the greatest overheads for most data centres, DNA storage is very appealing from an economic standpoint.
Second, over the next four years, we will generate around 175 zettabytes of data globally. That’s 175 followed by no less than 22 zeros, to be exact. All of that data can be stored in less space than a golf ball. With numbers like these, it’s no surprise that scientists have long considered DNA as a possible storage medium.
Challenges of DNA Storage
The cost of DNA storage makes it too expensive for most organizations. This isn’t because storing data is expensive; once it’s encoded into a DNA molecule, it’s simple to do so. Instead, the cost is incurred when data is transformed into information. Currently, the technology necessary to convert a digital snapshot into a DNA strand is several times more expensive than equivalent digital technologies. “For our application to read, write, package and store data using DNA, costs need to go down a lot,” according to Gurtej Sandhu, Senior Fellow and Vice President, Micron Technology. In one project, the cost of synthesizing 2MB of data was $7,000; reading it cost another $2,000. And reading and writing to DNA is slower than to other kinds of memory storage.
Then there are a few more technical issues to deal with, such as; Even little errors in the transcription of data onto a DNA helix can render the entire data set illegible.
- Ritoza D. Storing Photos and Other Documents in DNA And Its Use in Forensic Science – A Review. J Forensic Sci & Criminal Inves. 2021; 15(3): 555914. DOI: 10.19080/JFSCI.2021.15.555914
- J. Bornholt et al. A DNA-based archival storage system. Association for Computing Machinery. Proceedings of the Twenty-First International Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems. Atlanta, Ga., April 6, 2016. p. 637. doi: 10.1145/2872362.2872397.
- Kathiann Kowalski, DNA can now store images, video and other types of data https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/dna-can-now-store-images-video-and-other-types-data