This will be one of those million years into the future kind of articles and something I hope to be part of a larger series talking about uncharted horizons, those technologies that are in the inception phase or sitting in someone’s lab.

DNA for computing and data storage are upcoming biological technologies currently in development, this article explores DNA as a medium for long-term storage, redundancy, and data replication along with its ability to correct errors.

 

What is DNA and what makes a great medium for data storage?

DNA has several advantages over traditional storage mechanisms right from magnetic mediums to solid state drives:

 

  • With a very high density of data storage, one gram of DNA can store over 200 pera bytes of data per gram for a period of two millennia.
  • Self-error correcting checks and checks against mutation, DNA as a building block is designed to replicate and can copy itself, it has extreme measures to check itself.
  • Very long life but poor preservation, it requires a cold and dry environment.
  • DNA being a biological evolution would mean if there is a planet-wide disaster and future generations take a different route towards technologies, potentially DNA could still be read, hence it is apocalypse proof.

Current DNA technologies are of course not available commercially they tend to be read-only. The study of DNA for storage also leads to DNA computing where biological models like DNA and molecules may be used for computing.

Until late access to data on DNA has been sequential and hence extremely slow, however, new research done by Microsoft is creating synthetic DNA and using a library of primers and attaching the same to the DNA sequence. The primers along with polymerase chain reaction allow targeting of specific DNA sequences.

As expressed before this technology is not available today but is a must to watch out for.