Did You Know DNA Can Store Books and Movies for Millions of Years?

In the future, genetic molecules could be used for media interactions that today are limited to common hard drives. (Image: GraphicStock.com)
In the future, genetic molecules could be used for media interactions that today are limited to common hard drives. (Image: GraphicStock.com)

Researchers have recently discovered a way to create a time capsule that could store all of humanity’s data for millions of years.

For futures to come

Most of mankind’s legacies have either been destroyed by fire or by time. The result—future civilizations know only a little about their ancestors.

Unfortunately, even with today’s regular hard drives, data can only be stored for a couple of centuries, at most.

So scientists figured why not use DNA? Just 1 gram of DNA can store 455 exabytes, which is equivalent to 1 billion gigabytes. That’s more than enough space to store the entire globe’s data, including Google and Facebook.

DNA orbit animated

Scientists can now store date almost indefinitely on DNA strands. (Image: Zephyris/Wikipedia)

Storing information on DNA isn’t even that difficult. But although a simple method to store data on DNA was possible in theory, one vital question remained unanswered, til now.

How long would data stored on DNA last?

DNA data ‘forever’

Robert Grass from ETH Zürich in Switzerland and his team came up with an experiment to find out how long DNA could be preserved. Well, thanks to the successful rearrangement in 2013 of the genetic code from a 700,000 year-old horse bone, scientists know that DNA can be really tough.

Glass said in a press release: “Similar to these bones, we wanted to protect the information-bearing DNA with a synthetic ‘fossil shell.'”

The “fossil shell” he’s referring to is tiny glass spheres used to encapsulate the DNA—each one measures around 150 nanometers in diameter. Just as a reference, 150 atoms have a diameter of 50 nanometers.

Based on the results, published in Angewandte Chemie, the team predicts that data on DNA could survive for more than a million years.

‘Petri-dish’ pop

The band OK Go are said to be writing their latest album into DNA as well.

And since 100 kilobytes of DNA storage goes for around $1,500,  I wonder how much a “Petri-Dish” album of several hundred megabytes would sell for?

Thanks to the process of fossilization researchers figured out a way to use DNA as a data storage, that can last millions of years.  Illustration_Philipp_Stroessel_ETH_Zurich

Thanks to the process of fossilization, researchers found a way to use DNA for data storage that can last over a million years. (Image: Philipp Stroessel/ETH Zurich)

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