January 26, 2011

Bioencryption

Low-temperature electron micrograph of a clust...Image via Wikipedia
A group of students at Hong Kong's Chinese University are making strides towards storing 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.
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. 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.
As a storage method it is extremely compact -- because each cell is minuscule, the group says that one gram of bacteria could store the same amount of information as 450 2,000 gigabyte hard disks.
The team have even coined a word for this field -- biocryptography -- and the encoding mechanism contains built-in checks to ensure that mutations in some bacterial cells do not corrupt the data as a whole.

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