Synthetic DNA will replace computer hard drives within the next decade

Synthetic DNA will replace computer hard drives within the next decade
A device inspired by our genetic code will lead to the creation of smaller, more powerful and much more durable means of communication in just a decade.

Every news item and every image you read, every video you watch, every like, comment, or even simply surfing the Internet: tall of this generates a huge amount of data every day. With the expansion of the use of computers and smartphonesthe trend is that this quantity increase more and more.

Today, the main way to store data is remote cloud architectures. These remote locations, so-called data centersalready consume 1% of the world’s electricity, and the increased demand for storage should make them consume 30% within a few years, which represents a serious energy problem.

concerned about the imminent crisis that this situation could generate in the coming years, scientists are beginning to study more efficient alternatives for data storage. One of the most promising involves the use of synthetic versions of DNA to store digital information.

But how is it possible to use DNA to store digital information?

DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA, in English), is a natural data storage system that is present in every cell. Thanks to the study of genetic materials such as DNA, we have access to biological information about Neanderthals, who became extinct more than 30,000 years ago, and even mammoths, who lived more than 1 million years ago.

Preparation of reagents for injection into DNA synthesis equipment in the IPT micromanufacturing laboratory
Preparation of reagents for injection into DNA synthesis equipment at IPT’s micromanufacturing laboratory. Image: Léo Ramos Chaves / FAPESP

And in fact, the data storage capacity in DNA is 115 thousand times higher than that of medias magnetic currently employed in data centers. In the same physical space as a magnetic tape cartridge 18 terabytesit would be possible to save 2 million terabytes of DNA.

Facebook’s data center occupies an area of ​​tens of thousands of square meters, equivalent to a large shopping mall. (…) The same content could be stored in just 5 grams of DNA, in a device that fits in the palm of a hand – Bruno Verona, Technological Research Institute (IPT).

In addition, much of the energy consumption in data centers serves for the maintenance of equipment and adequate air conditioning of the rooms storage, which must remain cold. DNA, however, can be kept at bay. room temperaturewhich in itself already considerably reduces energy consumption.

synthetic DNA;
Huge data centers will be replaced by devices that fit in the palm of your hand. Storage in synthetic DNA will also consume less energy and be more sustainable.

As if that weren’t enough, the medias Current magnets are produced with materials from mining and petroleum derivativesand last at most 30 yearswhereby need to be replaced frequently. Digital data archived in DNA will be readable for thousands of yearswithout needing replacement.

When will we have access to DNA storage technology?

The production of synthetic DNA and the storage of data in it are already carried out by the biotechnology industry, but the scale is low and the speed is still too slow. The process does not involve living organisms. The DNA molecule is manufactured through chemical synthesis.

Prototype of microchips that synthesize DNA molecules developed by the IPT-Lenovo consortium
Prototype of microchips that synthesize DNA molecules developed by the IPT-Lenovo consortium. Image: Léo Ramos Chaves / FAPESP

For this technology to become accessible, it will be necessary to improve various processesand in particular the chemical synthesis methods that simultaneously build DNA molecules and write digital codes on their nitrogenous bases. There is still a lot of research ahead, but it is estimated that this technology can be used in ten years.

Brazil, for example, is already investing in this direction.. The project Prometheuscreated in 2021 as a partnership between the Technological Research Institute (IPT) and Chinese electronic device maker Lenovoalready has 40 researchers working on this technology and is expected to become one of the pioneers of DNA storage over the next decade. Now it remains to wait for the results.

2023-06-03 17:00:00

#Synthetic #DNA #replace #computer #hard #drives #decade