Researchers use DNA to store an mp3, PDF and Shakespeare’s sonnets

Are you bored with carting around multiple flashdisks and hard-drives to carry around your digital possessions? How would you feel about storing your files in DNA instead?

A team of researchers has proved it’s possible: they successfully managed to code 739 kilobytes of data into DNA, which was then dried and internationally shipped to another lab to be decoded. In the research paper, they explain how they used different sequences of DNA’s four bases (A, T, C, and G) to store everything from Shakespearean sonnets, to a PDF of an academic paper, a snapshot of a lab and an MP3 of part of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.

As Ars Technica points out, the potential storage capacity DNA holds is massive: the researchers estimated they could theoretically store 2.2 petabytes (2.2-million gigabytes) of data per gram of DNA.

While it’s not likely to become a on-the-go consumer product anytime soon, the study suggests that it could be a “realistic technology for large-scale, long-term and infrequently accessed digital archiving”. At the current rate of technological advancement and declining DNA synthesis costs, the researchers think that their system for storing data could prove to be cost-effective within the next 10 years, for storing data for under five decades.

Image: Nature

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