March 3, 2022 | David F. Coppedge

Will DNA Overtake Hard Drives?

“DNA is nature’s original data storage system. We can use it
to store any kind of data: images, video, music — anything.”


Your DNA hard drive doesn’t have a USB port yet, but it may be coming. Researchers at the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are working on the ultimate biomimetics project: writing human projects in nature’s own information storage medium: DNA.

Expanded alphabet, precise sequencing make DNA the next data storage solution (Univ of Illinois Beckman Institute, 2 March 2022). They’re adding 7 more DNA “letters” to the nature’s 4-letter code, but it’s already looking feasible to write, store, and read back almost any data.

Imagine Bach’s “Cello Suite No. 1” played on a strand of DNA.

This scenario is not as impossible as it seems. Too small to withstand a rhythmic strum or sliding bowstring, DNA is a powerhouse for storing audio files and all kinds of other media.

This 100% Darwin-free press release recognizes the tremendous potential of DNA as a storage medium.

“DNA is nature’s original data storage system. We can use it to store any kind of data: images, video, music — anything,” said Kasra Tabatabaei, a researcher at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology and a coauthor on this study.

Expanding DNA’s molecular makeup and developing a precise new sequencing method enabled a multi-institutional team to transform the double helix into a robust, sustainable data storage platform.

Two advantages of DNA are its density and its longevity. DNA puts modern solid-state drives (SSD) to shame. One gram of DNA could store several petabytes of data (an amount typically generated each day on the internet). A petabyte is 1,000 terabytes: the equivalent of 20 million tall filing cabinets. A future DNA computer would not be limited by the hard drive. It would be limited by the size of human fingers to type or move a mouse and by human eyes to view the screen.

Its longevity rivaled only by durability, DNA is designed to weather Earth’s harshest conditions — sometimes for tens of thousands of years — and remain a viable data source. Scientists can sequence fossilized strands to uncover genetic histories and breathe life into long-lost landscapes.

The press release, notably, does not mention billions or millions of years. The interdisciplinary research team spoke of “DNA’s millennia-old MO” [modus operandi] as a desirable aspect for use in computing and data storage, with its “potential to drastically increase storage density” in non-traditional media.

DNA literally made history by storing genetic information. By the looks of this study, the future of data storage is just as double-helical.

The paper in Nano Letters doesn’t mention evolution either. It’s open-access, so read more about the wonders of DNA as an information storage medium. It begins, “DNA is emerging as a robust data storage medium that offers ultrahigh storage densities greatly exceeding conventional magnetic and optical recorders.”

Tabatabaei et al., “Expanding the Molecular Alphabet of DNA-Based Data Storage Systems with Neural Network Nanopore Readout Processing,” Nano Lett. 2022, February 25, 2022,


Now enjoy this short film from Illustra Media, “18 Trillion Feet of You,” to appreciate the amount of DNA information that is stored in your body.



(Visited 480 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply