Need to store large amounts of data? Grab some E. Coli

What would you do if, for some reason, you suddenly needed to store a large amount of data, say in the neighborhood of 880TB? How much do you think your idea would weigh? At 2TB per drive, you would likely end up with a ton of hard drives. One and a quarter tons to be exact, evenly distributed between 440 drives. If that sounds a bit impractical to you, keep reading.

A group of students at Hong Kong's Chinese University have devised a way to store the aforementioned 880TB of data in no more than 1 gram. It's definitely a bit more practical. They are using genetically altered E. Coli, the same bacteria that can cause food poisoning in humans. They use a process to first remove the original DNA and then, through the use of special enzymes, manipulate said DNA to reflect the stored data and then return the new DNA to the cell.

They've also implemented heavy security, even coining a new term for it: "Biocryptography". One of the student researchers, Allen Yu, commented, "Bacteria can't be hacked. All kinds of computers are vulnerable to electrical failure or data theft. But bacteria are immune from cyber attacks. You can safeguard the information."

Biostorage on the whole is still a very young area of research, having existed only for a decade. So is it possible that in, say, 5 or 10 years we could have a dish full of E. Coli for a hard drive? One of the researchers notes that, while it's possible, it's definitely not going to happen any time soon, citing the difficulty in actually retrieving the data from the bacteria after putting it there.

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