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Data Storage For Eternity

By ETH Zurich

February 13, 2015

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ETH Zurich researchers say they have found a way to store information for more than a million years by encapsulating the information-bearing segments of DNA in glass and then using an algorithm to correct mistakes in the data.

Two years ago, researchers discovered that genetic material found in fossilized bones several hundreds of thousands of years old could be isolated and analyzed if it has been encapsulated and protected. The ETH Zurich researchers encapsulated the DNA in silica spheres with a diameter of about 150 nanometers, and stored it at a temperature of 60 to 70 degrees Celsius for up to a month, replicating within a few weeks the chemical degradation that takes place over hundreds of years. This method enables the researchers to compare the storage of DNA in a sheath of silica glass with other common storage techniques.

The researchers found the DNA encapsulated in the glass shell was particularly robust, and the information can be read by separating it from the silica glass with a fluoride solution.

However, the data also must be able to be read free of error. The researchers developed a scheme to correct errors based on the Reed-Solomon Codes, which are similar to those used in the transmission of data over long distances.

From ETH Zurich
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