Microsoft and researchers from the University of Washington have set a new record and reached a milestone in DNA storage. The team has been able to store 200MB of data on the molecular strands of DNA. Just as interesting as setting a new record for data capacity is the fact that the stored data took up a tiny amount of space described as “much smaller than the tip of a pencil.”
Once the scientists devise a method of scaling the technology up, DNA storage promises to allow you to store all the public data on the internet in a device the size of a shoebox or all the data in a massive data center in the size of a few sugar cubes. Researchers say that DNA storage has significant advantages as a storage medium. One advantage is that the storage medium is compact and durable able to last a very long time if kept in good condition and the scientists think that the data will always be current.
“As long as there is DNA-based life on the planet, we’ll be interested in reading it,” said Karin Strauss, the principal Microsoft researcher on the project. “So it’s eternally relevant.”
The research team has a long way to go to bring DNA storage to market as a viable technology for archival. The team believes that they will be able to apply computer science principals such as error correction to DNA storage improving speed. DNA storage requires all the 1s and 0s of digital data to be translated into one of the four nucleotide bases of a DNA strand. The data is given over to a vendor called Twist Bioscience to “translate those letters, which are still in electronic form, into the molecules themselves, and send them back,” Strauss said. “It’s essentially a test tube and you can barely see what’s in it. It looks like a little bit of salt was dried in the bottom.”