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Salmon DNA used in data storage device

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January 6, 2012

Scientists have created a rudimentary data storage device using salmon DNA (Photo: Isaac W...

Scientists have created a rudimentary data storage device using salmon DNA (Photo: Isaac Wedin)

Salmon ... they're good to eat, provide a livelihood for fishermen, are an important part of their ecosystem, and now it seems that they can store data. More specifically, their DNA can. Scientists from National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany have created a "write-once-read-many-times" (WORM) memory device, that combines electrodes, silver nanoparticles, and salmon DNA. While the current device is simply a proof-of-concept model, the researchers have stated that DNA could turn out to be a less expensive alternative to traditional inorganic materials such as silicon.

The device is made up of a thin film of salmon DNA that has been impregnated with silver atoms, then sandwiched between two electrodes. When UV light is shone onto the system, the atoms cluster together into nanoparticles.

Subsequently, when no or little voltage is applied to the electrodes, only a low electrical current is able to travel through the UV-irradiated DNA. This is the equivalent of the device's "off" state. Because the material is unable to hold a charge under a high electrical field, however, once the voltage exceeds a certain threshold, a higher current is able to travel through the DNA. This represents the "on" state.

These changes in conductivity were found to be irreversible - once the device has initially been set to either "on" or "off" it stays that way, regardless of what voltages are subsequently applied. Even after up to 30 hours, it retains its conductivity.

The scientists are now hoping that their discovery could lead to new techniques for the design of optical storage devices.

This isn't the first time that DNA has been suggested for such applications. Researchers at Imperial College London have created logic gates using DNA and bacteria, while American scientists have genetically engineered the bacterium E. coli to coax its DNA into computing the solution to a classic mathematical puzzle.

A paper on the salmon DNA research was recently published in the journal Applied Physics Letters.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
7 Comments

Why salmon DNA?

Carlos Grados
6th January, 2012 @ 05:48 pm PST

Great. I envision a future where the Salmon fish will be thoroughly extinct due to humanity's thirst for storage technology, that is if humans hadn't overfish them to extinction already.

SpaceBagels
7th January, 2012 @ 02:42 am PST

Salmon SPERM DNA is a very widely used source of cheap DNA. Sperm in many fishes is produced in massive amounts, and is a liquid with a very high density of DNA (has many sperm cells that are almost just a nucleus). It could be harvested without killing the fishes but I guess that the sperm is extracted from fishes that are already harvested for the food industry.

In comparison, say, muscle tissue has an enormous protein content and very small DNA content.

cachurro
9th January, 2012 @ 04:59 am PST

so much for the 3 second memory of fish ;)

Mark-Toxic Pettit
9th January, 2012 @ 07:49 am PST

salmon of knowledge

Micheal Donnellan
9th January, 2012 @ 01:08 pm PST

A small memory device would be viable for the disposable electronics product not like these beautiful of God's species fish. Disposing single use phones mab.

Shawn Powell
9th January, 2012 @ 08:10 pm PST

Will need to train specialists in salmon wanking

Doug Hovelson
10th January, 2012 @ 12:03 am PST
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