Information stored using DNA could last thousands of years, according to researchers from ETH Zurich.
According to Reuters, Zurich researchers led by Robert Grass encoded data in DNA, which they then encapsulated within a silica glass particle shell to protect it from the elements — much as organic material in fossils is safeguarded.
"[The] fascination of having this very, extremely old information — a hundred thousand years, older than anything else humanity knows — in DNA. So it kind of tells us that it's a really stable material which can endure nature or the environment for a very long time," Grass tells Reuters.
Grass and his colleagues translated Archimedes' "The Methods of Mechanical Theorems" into the A, C, T, and Gs of DNA and had a company synthesize the sequence. After placing their DNA version of the treatise into the shell, they subjected it to variations in temperature to simulate degradation. Still, the researchers tell Reuters that their DNA sample could be easily removed and read.
However, Grass notes that the synthesis step is pricy and any large-scale encoding of data would need investment from governments or corporations. Still, he says that the idea of encoding the world's collective knowledge for safekeeping is appealing.
"If you, for example, think of a tablespoon filled with DNA; that would include all of the information on Facebook and Wikipedia and Twitter — and all that just in that small heap of DNA. Whereas nowadays you need enormous server farms and cooling and maintenance because the current methods decay over time," Grass adds.