And it could be cost-effective pretty soon.
In 2013, researchers at EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) stored, retrieved, and reproduced over five million bits of data using DNA. The data included all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets, a photo of EMBL-EBI, an audio clip from Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech, Watson and Crick’s classic research paper on DNA structure, and a file describing how the data were converted.
After the files were transformed into DNA code, this was synthesised and stored. To retrieve the information, the team sequenced the DNA, and reconstructed the original files, with 100 per cent accuracy¹.
Theoretically, this DNA-based storage scheme could be scaled up to store the entire world’s information. DNA is durable, remaining stable over thousands of years, and it is very, very compact.
In 2012, it was estimated that the entire world’s information at the time – 1.8 zettabytes – could be stored in about four grams of DNA².