Techno Trends

The big ideas that are changing everything

DNA Data Storage

In today’s information society, there is an ever-growing need for more efficient and reliable ways to store data. From magnetic tapes, to floppy disks, to optical disks, to flash memory, the evolution of storage media has been nothing short of monumental over the last couple of decades. Now researchers are looking to the very fabric of life – DNA – to catapult us to the next level.

To demonstrate the concept, they digitized a photograph, a scientific paper, a 26-second audio file (from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech) and all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets, then encoded that digital information as four-letter DNA sequences. The code was used to synthesize strands of DNA, which, when all was said and done, were barely visible in a test tube. The information was then recovered by reading it back through a machine.

Because the retrieval process is time-consuming, DNA storage may not be practical for general use or for information that is retrieved often. However, the technology could be very useful for storing large archives (such as historical documents or library holdings), and could conceivably keep them safe for centuries.

For information: Nick Goldman, European Molecular Biology Laboratory Outstation-Hinxton, European Bioinformatics Institute, Wellcome Trust Genome Campus, Hinxton, Cambridge CB10 1SD, United Kingdom; phone: +44-0-1223-492530; fax: +44-0-1223-494468; email:; Web site:

Daniel Burrus' Top Twenty Technology-Driven Trends for 2013