Agilent Plays Key Role in Data Storage Breakthrough

Two researchers at the U.K.-based European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) have created a way to store data in the form of DNA, a method that will make it possible to store at least 10 million hours of high-definition video in about a cup of DNA.  Because DNA is small and dense, a cup of DNA could potentially store every movie and TV show ever made.  And, under the right condition, the data would last tens of thousands of years.

The new method requires synthesizing DNA from encoded information, and Agilent was able to provide its expertise by synthesizing an MP3 file of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and a text file of all of Shakespeare’s sonnets, among other items.

The result was a collection of DNA the size of a piece of dust, which was mailed back to EMBL where the scientists were then able to sequence the DNA and decode the files without errors.

“We downloaded the files from the Web and used them to synthesize hundreds of thousands of pieces of DNA – the result looks like a tiny piece of dust,” explains Emily Leproust of Agilent.

While there is more work to be done, the density and longevity of DNA makes it a very appealing storage medium. The next step for the researchers is to perfect the coding scheme and explore practical aspects, paving the way for a commercially viable DNA storage model.


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