The Fraunhofer Institute has created a project called Biosynth that aims to develop the means to store data at high density in synthetic biological media.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems IPMS will work together with three further Fraunhofer Institutes and consultants from industry science and users as well as experts from the University of Marburg, X-Fab, Infineon, the German Federal Archive and Hybrotec.
DNA can be used to store binary data is the field of endeavour for at least two US startups (see DNA-based memory startup raises $24 million and Boston startup finds funds for DNA computation). It has also been subject of basic research in Europe.
Use semiconductor technology
To complete a practical technology requires transferring microbiological processes from nature to artificial data systems. Writing DNA on microchips is still a big challenge, but also a huge opportunity, according to Fraunhofer IPMS.
The Biosynth project therefore intends to use the know-how of four Fraunhofer Institutes to improve DNA synthesis. This could be achieved by the creation of a universal platform for DNA/RNA/peptide writing.
Previous synthesis approaches, including ink-jet printing, are inefficient in generating long DNA segments. They also generate numerous inaccuracies, which are time-consuming and expensive to correct. In addition, the corresponding equipment technology is large and cost-intense.
The project is looking to conventional microchip fabrication technologies for writing software-defined nucleotide sequences (DNA, RNA or peptides). This will then enable the highly parallel and high-rate production of mass data storage by reproduction in the volume production process of the microelectronics industry.
The team will use microelectronics methods to create micron-dimensioned reaction cells with picoliter-scale reaction volumes for cell-free synthesis. This will be integrated into programmable active matrix array assembly. The transport, immobilization, activation and monitoring of the process conditions and results are to be carried out by means of suitable thermal and photonic components.
Fraunhofer FEP is chartered with designing the CMOS backplane to control and read out the micro-heaters for biosynthesis, the OLED and photodetector pixels in the active matrix arrangement and a corresponding test setup.
Fraunhofer IPMS is developing the thermal layer of the platform. The heating function for adjusting the temperature for biological synthesis is performed by capacitive micromachined ultrasonic transducers (CMUT). The task of the project is then to implement a MEMS technology in which organic components (organic light-emitting and photodiodes) from Fraunhofer FEP can be integrated to stimulate and monitor the synthesis process.
Subsequently, researchers at Fraunhofer IZI-BB in Potsdam will implement the synthesis process using the microchip platform. Fraunhofer ITEM is working on the corresponding coding processes in biological components.
The first results of the Biosynthesis program will be presented to the public for the first time in a user workshop at the end of 2023.
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