Published: Mon, March 06, 2017
Research | By Francis Brooks

Scientists turning to microbiology to make better computers

Moreover, the researchers encoded an operating system and movie and were able to successfully retrieve the data from sequenced DNA without any errors.

DNA Fountain reached almost 90 percent of the theoretical maximum capacity of DNA storage, packing almost 10 times more data per gram than the previous best DNA storage method.

If you recall, we brought you news last July that Microsoft had managed to store 200MB on a single strand of DNA.

So what did the duo decide to use to test their method?

Erlich and colleagues at the New York Genome Center (NYGC) chose six files to write into DNA: a full computer operating system, an 1895 French film, "Arrival of a train at La Ciotat", a $50 Amazon gift card, a computer virus, a Pioneer plaque and a 1948 study by information theorist Claude Shannon.

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Once they converted all that data into DNA-compatible information, they sent it to Twist Bioscience, a San Francisco startup specializing in DNA synthesis.

Now, the last step in proving that molecules are apt storing environments, the scientists had to come up with a way to access and to retrieve the stored information. Remarkably, the recovered files were error-free.

The "dataclysm" that is about to occur in the future means that storage space is going to be limited. Put simply, your computer hard drive's days are numbered. An algorithm was used to take the binary code from that file and split it into short strings of digits. This field shows a lot of potential and they should be focused on finding how the DNA can help them store more and more information. "Here we report a storage strategy, called DNA Fountain, that is highly robust and approaches the information capacity per nucleotide". "For obvious reasons, we removed the Amazon gift card".

Erlich explained how DNA is a better option than the current ones we already have. None of the above it would seem according to a team of researchers from the Columbia University. Unlike most of the existing data storage devices out there, DNA doesn't degrade over time, plus it's very compact. Two weeks later, they received a vial holding a speck of DNA molecules. To read the data, they used standard DNA sequencing technology, then special software to reverse the encoding process. If it does, we will have much bigger problems than data storage. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a technique used in molecular biology to amplify a single copy or a few copies of a piece of DNA across several orders of magnitude.

Previous research achieved 1.0 bit storage capacity per DNA nucleotide base, while the Columbia team reached 1.6 bits. It costs $7,000 to synthesize just 2 MB of data and to be able to read the data adds another $2,000 to the total. "I would guess more than a decade", he said. Their computer needed about two or three minutes to transform the data, converting it into a DNA sequence. They were left with the original files, all perfectly intact.

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