Tuesday, 11 January 2011
HONG KONG - The US' national archives occupy more than 800km of shelving; France's archives stretch for more than 160km of shelves, as do Britain's.
Yet a group of students at Hong Kong's Chinese University are making strides towards storing such vast amounts of information in an unexpected home: the E.coli bacterium better known as a potential source of serious food poisoning.
Biostorage - the art of storing and encrypting information in living organisms - is a young field, having existed for about a decade.
In 2007, a team at Japan's Keio University said they had successfully encoded the equation that represents Einstein's theory of relativity, E=MC2, in the DNA of a common soil bacterium.
They pointed out that because bacteria constantly reproduce, a group of the single-celled organisms could store a piece of information for thousands of years.
The group has developed a method of compressing data, splitting it into chunks and distributing it between different bacterial cells, which helps to overcome limits on storage capacity.
"Bacteria can't be hacked," points out Allen Yu, another student instructor.
"All kinds of computers are vulnerable to electrical failures or data theft. But bacteria are immune from cyber attacks. You can safeguard the information."
They are also able to 'map' the DNA so information can be easily located. This opens up the way to storing not only text, but images, music, and even video within cells. -- AFP