Microsoft just bought 10m synthetic DNA molecules for data storage

JC Torres - Apr 28, 2016, 3:30am CDT
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Microsoft just bought 10m synthetic DNA molecules for data storage

In the future, when you need to store more than what your 100 terabyte storage drive can handle, you wouldn’t be looking to the cloud for answers, you’ll be looking inside yourself. Sort of. This almost zen-like idea isn’t just science fiction anymore. It is very well the future of computing. Or at least Microsoft believes so, to the point that it just purchases 10 million long oligonucleotides, a.k.a. DNA molecules, from San Francisco startup Twist Bioscience. These DNA molecules will be used in Microsoft’s own research into making synthetic DNA a viable commercial data storage solution.

You might have read or heard some science fiction text that describes how DNA can be used for data storage. As strange as it may sound, it actually has basis in real science. DNA has two desirable traits that no current data storage technology possesses. One, it can last for at most 2,000 years, sometimes even longer, without degrading. No CD, DVD, HDD, or SSD can claim to even be a hundred years old and still functional. Second, it has the a very high storage capacity. One cubic millimeter of DNA can store one exabyte of data, equivalent to one billion gigabytes.

You’d think Google, with all its focus on data, would be interested in such a technology. And it probably already has its own research even. For now, however, Microsoft is taking the lead with this acquisition. It isn’t doing it alone, though. Microsoft’s Research arm has been collaborating with the University of Washington over this project. And Twist Bioscience has been part of that endeavor as well.

Last fall, Microsoft conducted a small scale experiment with promising results. It was able to encode data into synthetic DNA with 100% success and was also able to read that data again later. Of course, those are just tests and even Microsoft Research cautions that we are still far, far away from that ideal future. Nonetheless, it’s still an interesting idea already, and perhaps an entertaining one as well. One that perhaps involves fossilized creatures, dinosaurs, loony scientists, and a whole lot of screaming.

VIA: Business Insider


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