Saturday , July 2 2022

Will all our hard drives and cloud storage be stored on DNA?


The size of our digital data continues to increase.

From supporting family photos on cloud systems that are stored in remote servers, to keep huge amounts of scientific research data on file in data centers, the Earth Earth will soon need a data storage solution that is more space efficient.

If we do not continue to improve our data storage technology, then the entire Earth area will be covered by data centers in less than 75 years.

For example, imagine how much data you create and use it with your smart phone in a year (178.1 billion downloads of apps worldwide were recorded in 2017). Then imagine how much data is handled by technology giants like Google and Apple. That's a lot of data in just two examples.

As global global data is expected to grow to 175 zettabytes (175 trillion gigabytes) by 2025, what solutions exist for storing such huge amounts of data sustainably?

What is zettabyte?

One zettabyte contains a million petabeit. One petabeit contains 1,000 derabets, and one terabete contains 1,000 gigabytes. Confused? To put it in context, the average laptop has around 250-500 gigabytes of data storage, meaning that one zettabyte is equivalent to about 2 billion worth of laptop data storage.

In recent years, scientists have captured DNA, the chemical that captures the genetic characteristics that determine the characteristics of each living thing, is a possible revolutionary solution to our data storage problem.

A unique DNA-efficient space would allow us to store all current information in the world at the back of a van if it were used as our main storage method.

Researchers have been able to code a variety of data types, including Bitcoin, Tolstoy War and Peace and the music video for Ok That This Shao Toll Pass, into the As, C, G and Ts that stands for the four molecules (adenin, cytosine). , giniine and thymine) which form a DNA chain.

Current data storage relies on binary code (1s and 0s) to store all file formats, from PDF to mp3, on everyday hardware like CDs and USB sticks. For example, to listen to your favorite song on a device, you need to have that song first written in an mp3 file using binary code and to store it on hardware (whether that's it; n CD or on a downloadable remote sever).

You'll then need your device to be able to read that code and play it back to you like audio, in the form of your chosen melody.

By using code made of As, Cs, Gs and Ts, researchers have been able to store large amounts of data in such a small physical molecule, which can hardly be seen to the human eye.

Binary code on a CD track is substituted for As, Cs Gs and Ts in synthetic DNA molecules.

Future storage of data

There are also other unique features that make DNA synthetic appeal special as a data storage solution. The existing hardware has a short shelf life, with hard disks lasting only 3-5 years.

There are even cloud storage solutions using the same components that have to be managed and replaced constantly to prevent system failures, raising questions about long-term sustainability.

DNA storage is not subject to such restrictions, as there is little control over data storage in this form.

If kept cool and dry, DNA can survive without damage for thousands of years, meaning that large DNA information archives could be stored in locations such as the Arctic circle with no energy input. . Commercial freezers would also be a suitable storage solution, requiring much less energy to run than a typical data center.

Even if USBs and CDs were to survive the ages, the technology of such kind goes fast. As demonstrated by our old floppy friend, within a few years we are losing access to hardware that can read these devices as they are replaced by newer and more efficient technologies.

DNA is again an exception to the rule because of its evergreen social relevance. As long as people are interested in health and biodiversity, a machine will certainly be able to read DNA. Such technology will never be discarded and will remain relevant as long as people engage with these topics.

The restrictions

All stores have restrictions (Getty)

Although storing DNA may sound like a revolutionary medium that will change the way we store and manage our music, pictures and beyond, there are significant limitations that make it unlikely that it will replace data storage. traditional personalities such as hard drives and cloud systems.

The creation of synthetic DNA is currently a slow and costly process and is not yet commercially viable – although new businesses are working on more cost effective and efficient ways of writing it.

There are key challenges that need to be overcome to successfully improve DNA data storage.

Chain building with the correct letter A, C, G or T in each location is a difficult technical task.

To manage the chemical reaction that occurs on such a small scale, very detailed methods are needed and it is not always easy to get an accurate result.

The longer the chain of synthetic DNA is, the more errors are being introduced, which means it is harder to create a system that can store and retrieve information reliably.

Current methods store all computer files in a series of shorter DNA chains that must be reset in the correct order.

That's easier than saying!

Having some errors in our information is not unusual, because everyone using a mobile phone or watching satellite TV is aware.

Although effective error correction techniques are used for those binary codes, this is something that scientific research still needs to develop for the As, C, G and Ts of DNA storage. Using DNA will mean that there are different types of errors, requiring new error correction solutions.

How can DNA data storage be used?

The DNA molecule (deoxyribonucleig acid) contains double double helix of phosphates and sugars, linked by pairs of nucleidide centers (balls and rods). (Science Picture Library) t

The first commercial uses of DNA storage will be made by companies and individuals who are willing to pay over to have a data storage solution that makes information very easy to store and store; to keep it safe for a very long time.

For example, banks will be able to apply this technology to keep comprehensive financial records that extend over decades and, in the future, hundreds of years.

The retention of definitive long-term records of the law is another possible application. In England, this could mean that archives and law no longer rely on formal written records held on goats' skin!

So while it is unlikely that DNA data storage will ever become cheap enough to replace our personal USBs and our hard drives, it still has the potential to make a revolutionary contribution to the challenge of human data storage. .

Nick Goldman is Head of Research at the European Institute of Bioinformatics (EMBL-EBI), a not-for-profit organization that collects, stores and makes biological data readily available to researchers worldwide.

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