DNA Storage Has a New Molecule-Sized Competitor

Magnifying glass enlarging a molecule

Posted on Tuesday, October 29, 2019

As DNA storage moves ever closer to production readiness, attention is already moving towards its successor. Despite its versatility and longevity, DNA may not be suitable for every application.

To address these concerns, the US Defense Advanced Research Project Agency has been investing in alternative technologies. One of the first to bear fruit has been a new technique from Brown University which uses individual molecules.

Smaller and more secure than DNA?

Researchers have demonstrated the storage potential of sugars and amino acids- molecules which may be smaller than DNA. By adding specific metabolites, it is possible to create the 1 and 0 values required for encoding digital information.

Data “reads” are performed using a mass spectrometer which analyzes each molecule for the presence or absence of the specified metabolite. Reporting the results of their testing, researchers claim data read/write accuracy of around 99%.

Importantly, molecular memory also has a much lower latency than DNA equivalents.

Why does sugar storage matter?

Why does this matter? By introducing competition in the organic storage arena, DARPA hopes to drive improvements in all of the available technologies. Among the expected benefits are a reduction in hacking (criminals will need access to a mass spectrometer and the physical molecules).

Molecular storage is also extremely resilient. These media will survive temperatures, pressures and mechanical forces that would destroy a hard disk or SSD. But as always, organic storage technologies remain science fiction until we finally see a production-ready prototype.

While you wait for molecular storage to arrive, give us a call to learn more about our post-warranty support services for your existing storage arrays.

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