DNA Data Storage

By using unique processes of encoding and decoding binary data to and from synthesized genetic code, it is possible to store enormous amounts of information in tiny volumes of DNA strands which can be kept in small, stable containers such as test tubes.
Technology Life Cycle

Technology Life Cycle


Initial phase where new technologies are conceptualized and developed. During this stage, technical viability is explored and initial prototypes may be created.

Technology Readiness Level (TRL)

Technology Readiness Level (TRL)

Field Validation

Validation is conducted in relevant environments, where simulations are carried out as close to realistic circumstances.

Technology Diffusion

Technology Diffusion


First to adopt new technologies. They are willing to take risks and are crucial to the initial testing and development of new applications.

DNA Data Storage

DNA data storage is a method of encoding digital information into DNA molecules for long-term storage. It involves converting digital data into DNA code and then synthesizing the DNA sequences, which can be stored in small, stable containers such as test tubes. Compared to conventional optical and magnetic storage media like flash drives and hard drives, this solution offers much larger data density and potentially more longevity and energy efficiency to meet the growing global demand for digital storage.

The extensive amount of information stored in tiny volumes drastically reduces the space needed and, therefore, the energy required to hold it. For instance, for 33 zettabytes, the estimated amount of data that humanity will generate by 2025, less than the area of a ping-pong ball would be necessary.

DNA storage is a three-step process: coding the data, synthesizing and storing it, and decoding it. First, the data is coded by algorithms, translating binary codes into DNA codes: adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G), and cytosine (C). Then, the DNA is stored in a container in a cool and regulated environment; it can be frozen in a solution, stored as droplets, or on silicon chips. Finally, this stored data is taken to a lab to be decoded into error-free binary information.

Due to the speed of the decoding process, this technology is primarily envisioned for storing data that does not need to be frequently accessed, such as in today's external hard drives and long-term archives. However, with future developments, it could be used for data storage with always-on availability, helping reduce the dependence on today's energy-consuming server farms.

Future Perspectives

Once researchers streamline the process of encoding and decoding data from DNA, this technology could fully substitute digital hardware. Due to its wet media properties, DNA-based digital storage could be especially useful in biotech industries in processing nanoscale activities. For instance, instructions to be followed by ingestible nanorobots once inside the body could be programmed into DNA.

Also, it could be possible to encode all kinds of digital information into a person's DNA. Once we sufficiently manage to use human DNA to store essential content, concerns will begin to arise regarding security and hackability to prevent a malicious individual from gaining the power to access, write, and edit someone else's private genetic information without consent.

Image generated by Envisioning using Midjourney

Throughout evolution, DNA has been the primary medium of biological information storage.
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This article discusses how DNA might be used to store data. It is argued that, at present, DNA would be best employed as a long-term repository (thousands or millions of years). How data-containing DNA might be packaged and how the data might be encrypted, with particular attention to the encryption of written information, is also discussed. Various encryption issues are touched on, such as how data-containing DNA might be differentiated from genetic material, error detection, data compression and reading frame location. Finally, this article broaches the difficulty of constructing very large pieces of DNA in the laboratory and highlights some complications that might arise when attempting to transmit DNA-encrypted data to recipients who are a long period of time in the future.
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In 2006, Caltech's Paul Rothemund (BS '94)—now research professor of bioengineering, computing and mathematical sciences, and computation and neural systems—developed a method to fold a long strand of DNA into a prescribed shape. The technique, dubbed DNA origami, enabled scientists to create self-assembling DNA structures that could carry any specified pattern, such as a 100-nanometer-wide smiley face.

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