Scientists use DNA to store MP3, holds 2.2 petabytes per gram

By on January 24, 2013, 2:00 PM

Further exploring the role biological processes could one day play in the evolution of technology, researchers from the European Bioinformatics Institute claim to have successfully encoded 154 Shakespeare sonnets and an MP3 of Martin Luther King's  famed "I Have a Dream" speech into a single DNA strand -- or in other words about 739KB of information. Perhaps the most amazing part though, is researchers were able to read those files again with 100 percent accuracy. Will we eventually store our digital lives as strands of DNA?

The fact DNA can store information is of little surprise; DNA strands are essentially chemical-based instruction manuals for developing highly complex organisms with a seemingly infinite variety of permutations. 

"We realized that DNA itself is a really efficient way of storing information," one researcher noted. It was this thinking led the team of scientists to consider using DNA as a digital storage medium. "So over a second beer, we started to write on napkins and sketch out some details of how that might be made to work," he continued.

In fact, DNA is so fantastically efficient, researchers believe they can cram about 2.2 petabytes of information into a single gram of DNA. "We recovered 757,051 bytes of information from 337 pg of DNA (above), giving an information storage density of ~2.2 PB/g (= 757,051/337 × 10-12)", the paper claims. That's remarkably better than today's storage technologies. By comparison, it would take several hundred 3.5-inch 4TB hard drives to match that kind of storage density. 

Importantly, researchers also believe their DNA encoding scheme produces data that is reliable and long-lived. Their methods of DNA-based storage include error-correction and redundancy which protect against data loss. The big drawback though, for now, appears to be price.

According to those involved with the experiment -- using current methods for DNA manipulation -- the approximate cost per gigabyte is somewhere around $12,400/MB. "It's an unthinkably large amount of money," one researcher noted. However, his team feels that in about 10 years, DNA storage could become more cost-effective than traditional storage methods for large enterprises. 

Aside from obvious cost concerns, the researchers' omission of write and retrieval speeds could prove to be another sticking point. One of the documents notes, "The experiment was not optimised for speed" but the timeline therein indicates processing times measured in "days" rather than seconds. It's unclear how much improvement can be made in this area.

Intrepid readers can view more details regarding the experiment here (pdf) as well as a proposed specification (pdf) for the encoding and decoding of computer files contained within DNA fragments.




User Comments: 20

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Chazz said:

I wonder what the access time would be on this thing. I'd love to make a DVR of EVERYTHING imaginely possible.

2 people like this | Wendig0 Wendig0, TechSpot Paladin, said:

The RIAA isn't going to like this.

Nima304 said:

The RIAA isn't going to like this.

No, they aren't. They'll try to stifle this just like every other advancement in storage technology.

I wonder what the access time would be on this thing. I'd love to make a DVR of EVERYTHING imaginely possible.

I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be random-access, and would read kind of like tape drives. If that's the case, I'm pretty sure it won't sit well next to flash storage except when extremely large amounts of information need to be stored.

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Who the hell thinks this stuff up??

Wendig0 Wendig0, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Who the hell thinks this stuff up??

Asians

1 person liked this | cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Who the hell thinks this stuff up??

Don't look at me!! I still don't understand how it's possible, even after reading the article.

misor misor said:

"this is the pooolice!. open up your mouth so we can gather evidence."

-if you have stored your mp3s in your mouth.

kidding set aside, factors which can cause dna damage must be avoided such as:

1. Exposure to UV light.

2. Mechanical shearing.

3. Phenol extraction.

4. Dessication.

5. Heating.

[link]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_DNA_damage

hellokitty[hk] hellokitty[hk], I'm a TechSpot Evangelist, said:

What if you catch a virus?

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Wow, DNA can store music..! This goes a long way toward explaining Jimi Hendrix, (and quite a few others).

, post: 1271999, member: 169488"]What if you catch a virus?
Every time you sneeze, your music will skip like an old vinyl record...

"this is the pooolice!. open up your mouth so we can gather evidence."

-if you have stored your mp3s in your mouth.

Which is exactly why someone should come up with an MP3 player in suppository form. Put it where they're least likely to look., and most inconvenienced by doing so. You'll get caught and possibly charged with treason, if you suddenly start farting the "Star Spangled Banner"......

Now boys and girls, don't try this in Utah. You'll likely be labeled a "sex offender" as well...! :eek:

Demigod001 said:

The RIAA isn't going to like this.

No they will love it! Just think the ultimate drm, Music and movies tied to your own dna. Only you can listen and play after a blood saliva and/or sperm sample has been analyzed.

VitalyT VitalyT said:

How do I set an account for access?

Can I install an antivirus?

I want at least 256-bit encryption on my data.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

No they will love it! Just think the ultimate drm, Music and movies tied to your own dna. Only you can listen and play after a blood saliva and/or sperm sample has been analyzed.

Thats irrelevant as it can be done, without actually storing data within DNA.

Headline News:

Worlds deadliest virus was created, while someone was storing data on how to cure the common cold.

1 person liked this | spydercanopus spydercanopus said:

It really makes the music come to life.

gibbstar gibbstar said:

This would be awesome for school if it had some built in GUI that you could see as an overlay on your eye (too sci-fi?). I could access all my books and files and ditch the bag! maybe even record lectures, so it's like being one of those lucky bastards with photographic memory?? "where's your notes? attached to my brain stem in a DNA file.." yes please!

1 person liked this | captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

This would be awesome for school if it had some built in GUI that you could see as an overlay on your eye (too sci-fi?). I could access all my books and files and ditch the bag! maybe even record lectures, so it's like being one of those lucky bastards with photographic memory?? "where's your notes? attached to my brain stem in a DNA file.." yes please!
You need to get out more Junior.

McNasty said:

Who the hell thinks this stuff up??[/quote

People that smoke weed.

Sunny87 said:

Doesn't DNA decay and die quicker than plastics, silicone, carbon fiber, diamonds, gold, and in general any type of synthetic product that can be turned into a wafer for a storage chipset.

Yeoman Yeoman said:

It won't take 10 years. Very soon tiger won't roar but utter something sounds like "I have a dream...", and parrot, a hi-fi version.

More seriously, it entangles with all lifeforms, and if it spreads, almost 100% of new births may be DBA (dead before arrival). Euro might be the first baren terra on earth, possible the whole world.

Many billions of years later, may be shorter, we have an alient planet.

Don't worry, worse comes to worst, some small fraction of world population will left to reboot. as it has done so in earth's history.

Sean Griffin Sean Griffin said:

Way too much time on there hands haha.But interesting

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Way too much time on there hands haha.But interesting
I know...! And it's not like there isn't more important work that needs to be accomplished. For example, fighting world hunger, trying to bring about world peace, and upholding the ideals of the Miss America Pageant .....

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