Scientists have been working on data storage in smaller and smaller silicon chips. Now a breakthrough has been found that allows data to be stored and accessed using biological DNA, and Microsoft is funding further research by purchasing ten million strands of DNA from a biotech firm.
According to the preliminary research, the possibilities are very promising. Just one gram of DNA can hold one zettabyte (yes, that’s one billion terabytes) of data. The other promising thing about this technology is that DNA is probably even more faithful than your old hard drive, as DNA can be sequenced and identified from specimens that are thousands of years old.
This might sound like some kind of evil scientist experiment, but the applications are actually mainly benevolent and helpful to humankind. Scientists hope to create custom genetic material that can be inserted into microbes that will allow them to perform helpful tasks, mainly producing chemicals that could be nutrients. Thus, there are a lot of medical applications for this technology.
The company that spearheaded this technological effort is known as Twist Bioscience and they have the cost already down to .10 per strand of DNA, but they want to get it down even further, to .02 per strand, to make these efforts even more affordable to others. The overhead costs of this type of technology have already dropped from billions of dollars in the 90s and early 2000s to just thousands of dollars today.
It seems that Microsoft is hoping to be on the cutting edge of using life itself as high fidelity data storage. According to the company, trials with Twist have proven that the data on the DNA can be fully retrieved and thus, could be a great option for long term data storage once the technology is even more affordable and widely accepted.