A new twist on information storage creates nearly unbreakable protection.
BY GEORGE I.
Scientists at Sandia National Laboratories are search- ing for partners to apply technology for encrypting text within synthetic DNA. The encryption is far stronger than conventional technol- ogy and practically impossible to
break, researchers say.
In September, the Sandia team wrapped
up a three-year effort titled Synthetic DNA for Highly
Secure Information Storage and Transmission. The project
developed a new way of storing and encrypting information
using DNA. The work was funded through Sandia’s internal
Laboratory Directed Research and Development program.
Now, the team is preparing to apply for a patent and
getting ready to take the technology to the next level.
“We’re currently in discussions with several different
folks, trying to get some follow-on funding to continue
this work,” says George Bachand, a bioengineer at Sandia’s
Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies and the prin-
cipal investigator on the project. He adds that it is too
soon to provide a lot of details about the discussions, but
he reports that both the State and Defense departments
“have reached out to me.”
Among other potential applications, such as storing his-
torical documents, Bachand envisions using the technology
to record the history of materials: location, date and time of
manufacture and lot numbers, for example. “Imagine now if
you could take all of that information, put it into a synthetic
piece of DNA and attach it to that material. That would be a
simple way of going in and authenticating that this material
is, in fact, not counterfeited and that it meets the specifica-
tions of the supplier,” he says.
Compared with digital and analog information storage, DNA is more compact and durable and never
becomes obsolete. Readable DNA was extracted from the
600,000-year-old remains of a horse found in the Yukon,
Sandia officials point out in a written statement. The statement adds that tape- and disk-based data storage degrades
and can become obsolete, requiring rewriting every decade
or so. At the same time, cloud- or server-based storage
demands a vast amount of electricity. In 2011, Google’s
The Infinite Promise of
DNA-Based Data Encryption