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DNA, tomorrow's hard drive?

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Two researchers at Harvard University have managed to store 700 TB of computer data in one gram of material. To do this, they used DNA directly.

The idea of storing computer data in DNA is not new. This time, however, it is gaining momentum with the publication in the journal Science of the work of two Harvard University researchers. They have managed to store the digital copy of the book that one of them will soon publish in a few micrograms of material made of synthesized DNA molecules.

According to these scientists, the storage density reached is such that one could store in about 4 grams of DNA all the information produced in the world in 2011, which corresponds to 1.8 zettabytes (or 1.8 x 1021 bytes)!

In order for DNA to behave as a storage molecule, it is sufficient to match the nucleotides (A, C, G, T) that make it up with the binary information 0 and 1 that make up the computer data. Thus T and G represent 1, A and C represent 0. Moreover, on each DNA strand, a part of the available "bits" has been reserved for the recording of a code making it possible to determine the reading order of the various fragments.

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But which medium to use? Rather than opting for a living cell likely to die, the two researchers carried out the synthesis on a glass substrate. Frozen, the DNA becomes virtually unalterable, capable of withstanding extreme temperatures. The data can then be retrieved by sequencing, with a computer algorithm reconstructing the different fragments.

DNA may therefore be the future of mass computer storage.

(Article published in  http://www.maxisciences.com / August 21, 2012)

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