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article imageDNA preserved in glass could store data for over 2 million years

By James Walker     Feb 17, 2015 in Technology
A hard drive that stores data on a strand of DNA preserved in glass could keep data in a readable state for over 2 million years if kept in an optimal enivronment, a new report indicates.
Scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich who are investigating how DNA could be used to store data found that if DNA preserved in glass could remain decodable for 2,000 years if stored at a temperature of 10°C. If they were kept at -18°C in the Global Seed Vault, the data could be preserved for 2 million years, however.
The findings were made by encoding two documents onto DNA strands. The texts used were the Swiss federal charter from 1291 and the Archimedes Palimpsest, a 10th century version of ancient Greek tests.
The DNA containing the texts were then kept at 60, 65 and 70°C for a week to simulate ageing of the storage caused by temperature. They remained readable without any errors.
The data was encoded by interpreting the DNA bases A and C as the binary digit "0" used by computers. Bases G and T represented "1", creating the digital code required by computers to store and retrieve information.
One gram of DNA is believed to be capable of holding over 455 exabytes of data. Put into perspective, this is more data than Google, Facebook, Twitter and every other major service online holds. In the future, DNA could offer massive amounts of long-term storage.
Unfortunately, the cost is somewhat prohibitive at present. It cost the team £1000 to encode the 83 kilobytes of data that made up the documents used in the test. It is only viable to store select documents that could be useful in the future.
That is exactly what Robert Grass, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology which conducted the research, wants to do next. He wants to begin encoding works that could be of importance to future historians, providing meaningful information about the world today for future generations to learn from.
With the potential in the near future to store vast amounts of data for millions of years, DNA storage could become a lot more important soon once the cost is lowered and more is understood about how to encode information onto strands.
More about Hard, Drive, Dna, Preserve, Preserved
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