PetaPixel

Scientists Store Digital Photograph on Tiny Speck of DNA

dnamemory

Could memory cards and hard drives one day store massive numbers of digital photographs on DNA rather than chips and platters? Possibly, and scientists are trying to make that happen.

Last year, we reported that a group of researchers had successfully stored 700 terabytes of data on a single gram of DNA. The data being stored that time was a book written by one of the geneticists. Now, a new research effort has succeeded in storing something that’s a bit more relevant to this blog: a photograph.

British scientists announced last week that they had succeeded in storing 739KB of digital data onto a speck of DNA that’s barely visible to the human eye. Besides a digital photograph, the speck was used to store all 154 Shakespeare sonnets, a scientific paper PDF, and a 26-second audio clip from Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Children of the future will likely laugh when they see historic photos of how big and bulky modern-day hard drives are.

Children of the future will likely laugh when they see historic photos of how big and bulky modern-day hard drives are.

The storage technique involved converting the binary code of the files into the “four-letter alphabet” of DNA, creating strands of synthetic double helices. Afterward, the DNA strands could be decoded with 100% accuracy.

Scientists believe that DNA could be used to preserve the entirety of humankind’s stored data in a pile of DNA that could fit in the palm of your hand. The data could then be frozen and preserved for potentially thousands of years… without any electricity required for stable storage.

The main challenge going forward would be to reduce the costs (both time and money) of encoding and decoding the DNA strands. However, you probably shouldn’t get your hopes up for DNA-based memory cards in the near future: even if the technology hits the consumer market, it will likely be used for uber-long-term storage rather than on-the-go purposes.

Imagine being able to store your precious photographic memories (e.g. wedding photographs) safely for your entire life on a drive you can barely see. It’d likely be both smaller and more stable than any of the at-home storage strategies we use today.

(via SCMP)


Image credit: Photo illustration based on DNA double helix by AndreaLaurel and 163/366 – Memory Cards by p_a_h, Maxtor IDE Hard Drive with Apple logo by Mac Users Guide


 
  • 11

    My excitement will be complete when I hear about read/write speed and equipment size/cost needed to perform that.

  • 9inchnail

    “Imagine being able to store your precious photographic memories (e.g.
    wedding photographs) safely for your entire life on a drive you can
    barely see.”

    Yeah, that’s a great idea… it’s not like I’m already constantly searching for microSD cards that I’ve lying around. Microscopic hard drives, that’s what I need.

  • Mike Maciel

    -You lost all your photos? what happened?

    -”it” got a cold!

  • Michael

    This is not really suitable. While DNA may last for centuries, it depends mainly on the right storage. If you add a little moisture to the dried DNA is will be hydrolyzed within a relatively short amount of time.

  • Matt

    Very cool, but DNA is not real static at this point. And, if I can misplace a SD card, well…

  • http://www.vincentmorretinophotography.zenfolio.com/ fast eddie

    “Last year, we reported that a group of researchers had successfully stored 700 terabytes of data on a single gram of DNA. The data being stored that time was a book written by one of the geneticists”

    I’m more than a little skeptical about a 700 terabyte book, even one written by a geneticist. Maybe if it was thousands of pages long, and all of the pages were scanned as 1,600 DPI TIFFs or something…

  • Sum_it

    Anytime I have a primer made (short strand of DNA), it costs a hefty amount. Not to mention the gigantic (relatively speaking) machine it takes to make it. All of that, however, can be improved. BUT, lets not forget how prone those hydrogen bonds are when it comes to high temperatures. No doubt, carrying this research forward will do WONDERS for genetics research. Only time will tell if it can be successfully implemented in consumer electronics.

  • John Kroetch

    I’m a little more worried about what happens if this DNA starts to reproduce… maybe our “information” will create an unexpected type of life… eek. To quote Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park “Life will find a way”… :)

  • Michael

    The other problem with this is, that a gram of DNA is an incredible huge amount of material and very expensive to synthesize.