Computer data has been depicted as microscopic magnetic smudges, electric charges and even Lilliputian patterns of dots that reflect laser beams. It may ultimately move into the fabric of life itself — encoded in the organic molecules that are strung together like pearls to form strands of DNA.
In two recent experiments, a team of computer scientists at the University of Washington and Microsoft, and a separate group at the University of Illinois, have shown that DNA molecules can be the basis for an archival storage system potentially capable of storing all of the world’s digital information in roughly nine liters of solution, about the amount of liquid in a case of wine.
The new research demonstrates that specific digital files can be retrieved from a potentially vast pool of data. The new storage technology would also be capable of keeping immense amounts of information safely for a millennium or longer, researchers said.
It would also address a glaring Achilles’ heel at the heart of microelectronic data storage systems: Magnetic disks, tape and even optical storage systems safely store information at most for only a handful of decades.