Can DNA replace the hard drives in your techonology?

DNA, we have all heard of it and it is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms. Most of the DNA is found in the nucleus of cells (Nuclear DNA) and the remainder is found in the mitochondria (mitochondrial DNA).

DNA is stored as code and is up of four chemical bases:



  • (A)Adenine
  • (G)Guanine
  • (C)Cytosine
  • (T)Thymine

Most DNA consists of two biopolymer strands coiled around each other to form a double helix. DNA bases ( A,G,C&T) pair up with each other, A with T and C with G, top form base pairs. The two strands are known as polynucleotides since they are composed of simpler units called nucleotides.

Human DNA consists of 3 billion bases, and more than 99 percent of those bases are the same in all people.

The complexity of DNA gives it the potential to hold enormous amounts of data. Just 1 gram of DNA is theoretically capable of holding 455 exabytes- enough for all the data held by Google, Facebook and every other major tech company, with room to spare.

recent study by Robert Grass of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich was undertaken to improve the longevity of DNA, with the hopes that DNA could be used as a medium to store data.

‘Encoding DNA’ is not as hard as it may seem. Robert and his team used ‘A’ and ‘C’ as a ‘0’ and G and T as a ‘1’. This meant that data could be stored in a binary format, which would allow computers to read the data.

To test the DNA-Hard drive, 83 kilobytes of data were stored on the DNA for a week at a range of temperatures (60, 65 and 70°C). The study showed that there was no degradation over the week and that at 10°C, data could be stored on DNA for up to 2000 years.

There are some downsides to using DNA as a viable hard drive. Firstly it is very expensive to store data. It costs around £1000 to store 83 kilobytes of data on DNA which at the present is not viable.

DNA hard drives are definitely worth investing research and money into as they have the potential to store data for up to 2 million years. Whether or not they become a lifestyle choice is a tough one, as DNA hard drives are very expensive.

Read more on DNA hard drives here.

Saad Bhatty

Blogger, journalist, geologist and Tech-enthusiast. There is always something to write about!

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