BIOSYNTH project

Technology of the future – DNA for data storage

DNA as a storage medium for genetic information
© Fraunhofer FEP
DNA is not only a storage medium for genetic information, but can also be used to store data.

The global volume of data has doubled in the past three years alone. Nowadays, data collections of several terabytes are created every day. A large part of this data is archived after 90 days with the aim of keeping it for a long time. Especially for such data, which is accessed comparably infrequently, there is a need for secure, long-term but inexpensive storage with a high degree of compression.

DNA is not only a storage medium for genetic information, but can also be used to store data – a future technology that is currently under-explored in Europe. The essential prerequisite for the development of a biological mass data storage medium with high storage density and durability over time is a significant improvement in DNA synthesis, for which there is as yet no high-throughput technology. Current synthesis approaches are very inefficient, especially in the generation of long DNA segments, and generate inaccuracies that are time-consuming and expensive to correct. In addition, the device technology to date is extremely demanding in terms of space consumption and cost.

The potential of this research field is now being addressed by a consortium of Fraunhofer institutes to bring together know-how from engineering science, microelectronics, computer science and biotechnology.

Aim of the BIOSYNTH project

The aim of the BIOSYNTH project is to achieve an improved DNA synthesis with the aid of a universal microchip platform for DNA, RNA and peptide writing. For this purpose, a platform for writing software-defined nucleotide sequences (e.g. DNA, RNA, or peptides) based on conventional microchip manufacturing technologies will be designed. In the future, this platform will enable highly parallel and high-throughput production of mass data storage devices by amplification in the volume production processes of the microelectronics industry. The platform is expected to allow today's space-filling synthesis devices to be replaced in the future with portable, low-power, low-cost systems through miniaturization, thus enabling commercial biology-based data storage. In addition, it may provide an important component for other applications such as bio-computing or individualized therapies.

For the realization of data storage on this new platform, the Fraunhofer ITEM Bioinformatics group is developing special coding methods.

This requires:

  1. A universal microchip platform with thermal synthesis and optical monitoring
  2. A vehicle for DNA/RNA/peptide writing based on this platform
  3. Development of specific data coding procedures for the developed platform (transformation of binary data into DNA/RNA/peptides, error correction, random access, indexing techniques) 
Coding methods
© Fraunhofer ITEM, Lena Wiese
For the realization of data storage on the new platform, the Fraunhofer ITEM Bioinformatics group is developing special coding methods.

The BIOSYNTH consortium


Fraunhofer ITEM: Data integration

Bioinformatics analysis of high-throughput data from next-generation sequencing or microarray experiments. Range of methods includes AI, Big Data and high-throughput technologies, data security.

Contact: L. Wiese


Fraunhofer FEP: Si-CMOS and photonics level

OLED-on-silicon technology for bi-directional microdisplays: integrating spectrally customized microstructured light sources (OLED) on silicon CMOS.

Contacts: U. Vogel, P. Wartenberg , B. Richter 


Fraunhofer IPMS: Thermal level for microchip platform and simulation

Heating function to adjust the temperature for biological synthesis through structures in surface micromechanics following CMUT technology, and simulation expertise for thermal functionality.

Contact: M. Müller


Fraunhofer IZI-BB: Synthesis level

Cell-free bioproduction, microfabrication technologies, microfluidics and bio-chemical synthesis.

Contact: E. Ehrentreich 


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Your contact at Fraunhofer ITEM

Lena Wiese

Contact Press / Media

Prof. Dr. Lena Wiese

Manager of the Working Group on Bioinformatics/Head of Attract Group Bioinformatics “IDA – intelligent data analysis for good health and chemical safety“

Phone +49 511 5350-303