FEATURE12 January 2016

The DNA disk

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Recent research highlights the field of genomics as one of the fastest-growing data generators in the world. But could it also solve the data storage crisis? By Bronwen Morgan

The amount of data produced worldwide in 2011 ( 1.8 ZB) would have filled 57.5 billion 32GB Apple iPads: enough to build a Great Wall of China twice as tall as the original. This figure reached 2.8 ZB in 2012, and is predicted to reach 40 ZB by 2020.

One of the most prolific, and fastest-growing, data generators in the world today is the field of genomics: the quantity of genetic data being produced on a daily basis is currently doubling every seven months, and by 2025, genome scientists will have overtaken YouTube and Twitter, as well as reigning science data kings astronomy and physics, as the leaders in data production.

But in an ironic twist, the same field could also offer a solution to the approaching data storage crisis. According to Nick Goldman, research group leader at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI), the 2.8 ZB of data that would have resulted in an even bigger ‘Great Wall of iPads’ ...