Researchers from Microsoft and the University of Washington managed to store 200MB of data in a synthetic strand of DNA much smaller than the tip of a pencil. While the technique has lots of challenges, it could deliver mind-blowing storage density. Microsoft says DNA storage could make it possible to store all publicly accessible data on the Internet into a shoebox. Full details at Microsoft's blog.
It has several advantages as a storage medium. It’s compact, durable – capable of lasting for a very long time if kept in good conditions (DNA from woolly mammoths was recovered several thousand years after they went extinct, for instance) – and will always be current, the researchers believe.
“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.”
This explains why the Microsoft-UW team is just one of a number of research groups around the globe pursuing the potential of DNA as a vast digital attic.