DNA data storage: Store entire world’s data in small hard drive

The quantity of digital data generated on the planet earth is growing exponentially and there is no sign of slowing down.

Let me ask you this:

Do you know how much of digital data is been generated every single day on earth?

It’s 2.5 quintillion bytes.

Now you’ll be like, ” Wow, what the hell is a quintillion?”,don’t worry I’ll break it down for you.

One quintillion is one thousand quadrillions, which is one thousand trillion and one trillion is the number it’ll take for Bill Gates to be the world’s first trillionaire, possibly in next 25 years.

This amount of data is huge and is called as Big data.

Well, the problem with big data is storing and processing it. Although the latter part looks complex it isn’t, because,…

… to process Big data you don’t need huge computers, professionals work with cloud and endless network of servers along with powerful algorithms to process millions of bytes of data.

dna data storage

So, we are in a position to process a huge chunk of data. But the problem that still exists is that:

How do you store Big data?

Well, you might say we can use the databases which are being currently used by tech giants like Google, Facebook, Yahoo etc,…

Of course, we can.

But the problem is that total population on the internet had crossed 3 billion as of now.

Importantly: IoT devices aren’t mainstream yet and they are still under development.

Once they start flooding the market, we will literally have billions of devices exchanging the data through the internet to deliver a better lifestyle to the people.

So, In future, not only humans even machines will start generating a ton of data which will make it difficult to store all of ’em.

Wait, I’ve been saying that it’s difficult to store the data generated by machines and humans altogether. But, I never actually told why so here I answer:

Basically, all the databases maintained by the tech giants will consist of hard drives and that’s it. So, hard drives are building blocks of any database.

hard drives are awesome. Not really, let me explain why:

So I think we have seen enough, shouldn’t we go hunting for a new data storage technique which could overcome all of the above problems?

We need not.

That’s because researchers have already found one. Researchers are planning to overcome all the above-mentioned problems by using a technique called DNA data storage.

So here comes the question:

What’s DNA data storage technology?

I’ll come to that, but before that, I’ll have to tell you something about you:

You’re are a giant hard drive 😉

Well, that neither euphemism nor it is an insult. But why would I say something like that to you? well here’s why:

all the data about what makes you, you is stored inside of you on DNA and that’s a lot of complex information in tiny little space.

Almost every cell in your body has a DNA stranded so that kind of DNA ultimate storage medium.

So, what if we could store the digital information in DNA? wouldn’t that be great?

Yeah, this is what DNA data storage technology is all about. But now you might ask this:

How does DNA data storage technology work?

I’ll answer that, but before that, there is one more question which might be bugging you: i.e.,

Although a DNA is invisible to our naked eyes how could one store the data onto it? Well, here’s the answer for both:

Basically, a long string of 1’s and 0’s are fed into a computer to make it perform a particular task.

DNA is a long string too but instead of 1’s and 0’s it contains 4 chemicals namely: Adenine, thymine, guanine, cytosine.

So researchers just made each of these chemicals represent 1 or a 0.

Since they had 4 chemicals to play with, they also added redundancy. Adding redundancy will help to rectify any damage caused to DNA strand during its lifetime.

Researchers are going all in, to make DNA a better storage medium. But do you know:

How far have we reached in using DNA as a storage medium?

  1. In 1999, scientists in New York were able to successfully encode and decode 22 character message using DNA.
  2. For the first time in 2012, UK scientists encoded 739 kilobytes of computer files into a DNA strand.
  3. In 2016, researchers at Microsoft and the University of Washington broke the record by storing 200 megabytes of data into DNA.

I know 200 megabytes, will do no good for us. But that isn’t the maximum limit. DNA can store huge amount of data if sequenced and synthesized in a proper manner. So,

How much data are we talking about?

DNA data storage capacity is huge. Think of this:

All the movies, images, emails and other digital data from more than 600 smartphones (10,000 gigabytes) can be stored in the faint pink smear of DNA at the end of this test tube.

dna data stoarge

So, how about purchasing a hard drive which uses DNA data storage technology to store the data?

Well, I would say you’ll have to control your feelings for this hard drives at least for half a decade.

That’s mainly because:

It costs anywhere between 10-20 thousand dollars to synthesis DNA right now and sequencing it costs pretty much the same.

So, to be practical as a commercial project we need the process to cost less than 1% of what it costs now.

Wrap up

Although there are a ton of advantages of DNA data storage, what’s holding us back is lack of research in this field.

But today there are a ton of DNA data storage companies which are trying to revolutionize data storage sector. We hope everything goes fine and small. I was talking about the hard drive 🙂

Did you like this article?

Do let us know through comments. Thanks for spending your valuable time here. Also, check out DNA data storage research paper.

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