Holographic to DNA Storage: What about the Hardware Requirements?
August 18, 2012
About 20 years ago, I received an award from a professional association. I was nominated by someone at Bell Labs, and as part of the activities, I was invited to tour a Bell Labs’s facility in New Jersey. On that tour, my hosts introduced me to a Bell Labs’s researcher who had developed a holographic storage technology. The demo was in a small, gray room. I asked the inventor, “What hardware is required?” I recall that a research assistant open a door to reveal a large room stuffed full of gizmos. I asked, “What’s the challenge to commercialize the multi terabyte storage system.” The answer, “Making everything small.”
I thought of this demo when I read “Harvard Cracks DNA Storage, Crams 700 Terabytes of Data into a Single Gram.” The write up points out:
“The work, carried out by George Church and Sri Kosuri, basically treats DNA as just another digital storage device. Instead of binary data being encoded as magnetic regions on a hard drive platter, strands of DNA that store 96 bits are synthesized, with each of the bases (TGAC) representing a binary value (T and G = 1, A and C = 0). To read the data stored in DNA, you simply sequence it — just as if you were sequencing the human genome — and convert each of the TGAC bases back into binary. To aid with sequencing, each strand of DNA has a 19-bit address block at the start (the red bits in the image below) — so a whole vat of DNA can be sequenced out of order, and then sorted into usable data using the addresses.”
I like the word “simply.” Now what about the hardware required to make this stuff work? No information. Fancy Dan storage technologies are fascinating. Practical too … if you have the resources to make these breakthroughs work when you are checking email at a coffee shop.
Stephen E Arnold, August 18, 2012