DNA data storage instead of server banks: a path to CO2 neutrality?

Storing images and music in the DNA of plants sounds like the future. However, the research team led by Cyrus Clarke from Grow Your Own Cloud has already succeeded. The plants not only store data but also absorb CO2.
31 January, 2023 by
DNA data storage instead of server banks: a path to CO2 neutrality?
GDI Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute

In our connected world, we are constantly surrounded by data. We generate data, use it, and store it on an ever-increasing scale. This comes at a price: data storage could soon account for 20% of global energy consumption, generating more CO2 than the aviation industry. But what if data storage could actually remove CO2 from the atmosphere?​

In their interactive installation Data Garden, designers and artists Cyrus Clarke and Monika Seyfried propose a data centre based on living organisms. It uses genetic technology to store digital data in the DNA of plants, which in turn generate energy and absorb CO2. Encoding involves converting digital data such as text files, JPEGs and MP3s into a biological format, DNA, using nucleic bases instead of binary data. This technology has the potential to store all the world's data in just 1 kg of DNA.

By storing data in the DNA of plants, Grow Your Own Cloud's work shows the potential for green, carbon-absorbing data storage that belongs to the public, not corporate monopolies. At the same time, it explores new obstacles that arise from the biological modification of DNA - particularly intellectual, ethical and regulatory issues. A reflection on political and environmental aspects related to the cloud is also encouraged.

Learn more about Grow Your Own Cloud, the Data Garden and Cyrus Clarke at the 19th European Trend Day, which will take place at the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute on 8 March 2023. On the topic of "Inspired by Nature: The Next Economy Is Based on Biology", experts will show how our understanding of nature and our relationship with it is changing. We will present new findings from research and the most exciting start-ups in the bioeconomy. Sign up now!

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