Few months ago Microsoft bought ten million strands of DNA from biology startup Twist Bioscience to investigate the use of genetic material to store data. It emerged that the tech company wants to use DNA for storage purposes, according to Microsoft, DNA could be a better way to store data for the long term than the magnetic tape companies rely on today.
Apparently work on that front is in progress, and Microsoft has announced it’s achieved an important milestone, that could lead to the future of data storage. Microsoft reported today that it had written roughly 200 megabytes of data, including War and Peaceand 99 other literary classics, into DNA – and that’s a new record.
Although researchers have demonstrated that digital data can be stored in DNA before, Microsoft says none have written so much of it into DNA at once.
When encoded onto DNA, the data took up a tiny amount of space – a tiny spot in a test tube which according to the project lead, Douglas Carmean was “much smaller than the tip of a pencil”. DNA will definitely be a good storage medium because data can be written into molecules more densely than the basic elements of conventional storage technologies can pack it in, says Karin Strauss, Microsoft’s lead researcher on the project, the project also involves researchers from the University of Washington.
The company is interested in learning whether we can create an end-to-end system that can store information, that’s automated, and can be used for enterprise storage, based on DNA – Strauss
According to Strauss, the project is motivated by the fact that electronic storage devices are not improving as quickly as the amount of data we use grows. “If you look at current projections, we can’t store all the information we want with devices at the cost that they are,” she says.
Although right now the technique is expensive and researchers warn there’s still a long way to go in terms of making DNA storage a commercial reality, Strauss is confident that the costs of reading and writing DNA will fall significantly in coming years. She also says there is already evidence that they are falling faster than the cost of fabricating transistors did over the past 50 years, a trend that has been the engine of much innovation in computing.
This new technology will be seen as a potential replacement for magnetic tape, which is the standard mechanism for long-term data stores today.
Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational technology company headquartered in Redmond, Washington, that develops, manufactures, licenses, supports and sells computer software, consumer electronics and personal computers and services. Its best known software products are the Microsoft Windows line of operating systems, Microsoft Office office suite, and Internet Explorer and Edge web browsers. Its flagship hardware products are the Xbox game consoles and the Microsoft Surface tablet lineup. It is the world’s largest software maker by revenue, and one of the world’s most valuable companies.
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) stores biological information. It is a molecule that carries most of the geneticinstructions used in the growth, development, functioning and reproduction of all known living organisms and manyviruses. DNA was first isolated by Friedrich Miescher in 1869. Its molecular structure was identified by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953, whose model-building efforts were guided by X-ray diffraction data acquired by Rosalind Franklin.