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Dr. Dennis LJjeunesse (Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering) received new funding from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (Prime: National Science Foundation) for the project “Collaborative Research: DNA Mutation-oscillator Storage: DMoS.”

The global digital storage will surpass 175 Zettabyte (ZB) by 2025, and the expansion of data production will result in an unprecedented data-storage medium shortage by 2040. The state-of-the-art storage materials and techniques are rapidly approaching their physical limits, and the memory industry has realized the critical need to explore alternative storage materials. In the absence of such development, an information storage crisis is imminent.

The proposed research will generate a method of using DNA as a storage medium provides a spatial capacity 10 million times better, the energy of operation 100 million times less, and information durability 10-100000 times longer than the current state-of-the-art archival memory materials. DNA-based memory will be a viable alternative to magnetic tapes and other archival memory types if it becomes cost-effective for high-volume manufacturing.

To date, the majority of proposed DNA memory systems depend on nearly 40-years-old chemical synthesis methods for the de-novo synthesis of DNA that is not scalable, produces massive amounts of toxic wastes, and is not editable. For context, a record of 5 minutes 1080p video streaming on YouTube stored in commercially acquired DNA, costs over 5 million dollars, consumes over 100KWh of energy, takes over 4 days, and produces over 15 liters of toxic waste. Also, editing the stored information necessitate the de-novo re-synthesis of the whole DNA pool.

For DNA-based memory, DNA synthesis should become economically scalable, highly automated, massively parallel, and environmentally sustainable. As envisioned by the 2018 SemiSynBio Roadmap, DNA synthesis technologies embrace Moore-like behavior, and therefore the cost and speed of DNA synthesis will improve drastically. However, the disruptive environmental effects of the technology are underestimated – and if not addressed, the DNA-based memory systems are unlikely to deliver a viable product. We propose to explore a new method of writing information into existing DNA molecules that eliminate the toxic waste, and presumably reduce the cost and energy consumption of writing digital data into DNA.

The researchers will design, build, and test prototypes of a storage system that encodes information by changing the base-state of domains of an existing DNA. To produce the prototype coined “DNA Modification-Based Storage (DMoS),” the researchers will address three objectives: 1) Development of Coding protocols; 2) Development of an in vitro nano-electronic system using Crispr based; 3) Development of a microfluidic-based typewriter. The proposed work responses to three of the SemiSynBio II required research themes: specifically, Develop novel strategies for addressing fundamental questions at the interface of biology and semiconductors, Promote design of new bio-nano-hybrid devices based on sustainable materials that test the physical size limit in transient electronics, and Fabricate hybrid micro- and nano-electronic systems based on biomolecules for information storage and retrieval functionalities.

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