The pace at which data - such as photos, videos, and social media posts - are being generated is ramping up drastically, exceeding the scaling limits of traditional silicon-based data storage technologies, and DNA could be deployed to help meet this challenge. As an indication of the massive amount of data storage that may be required, one model predicts that by the year 2030, electricity use by data centers could approach about eight percent of total global electricity demand. New paradigms for data storage, such as the use of DNA for preserving information, are necessary.
DNA is genetic material that contains plans for the design of living things, but DNA can also be used to store data created by living things. DNA is an attractive material for data storage - it is stable, writable, readable, and information dense. In theory, the entire world’s data could be stored in a coffee mug-sized portion of DNA.
So how does storing, for example, a video, in DNA work? (See Figure 1.) First, an algorithm is used to encode the video into the As, Ts, Cs, and Gs that make up DNA molecules. The DNA molecules are then synthesized, and stored. To access the data, the DNA molecules would be sequenced, and the DNA sequences translated using the same algorithm, reproducing the video.