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Microsoft is exploring the idea of using DNA for data storage

Now that users are generating more data than ever before, Microsoft has begun to explore the idea of using DNA molecules to store data.

To begin investigating the possibility of accomplishing such a complex task, the company will be purchasing 10 million strands of long oligonucleotides - or lab made DNA molecules - from a startup in San Francisco called Twist Bioscience.

DNA molecules are an ideal storage solution because they do not degrade in the same way that Blu-Ray discs and other physical media do. Data stored this way could remain intact and still be readable anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 years in the future.

One cubic millimetre of DNA could be used to store one exabyte of data, which is equivalent to one billion gigabytes according to estimates from Microsoft Research. Doug Carmean, an architect at the company's research division, notes that: “As our digital data continues to expand exponentially, we need new methods for long-term, secure data storage”.

A commercial release of a product using this technology is still quite a long ways off but Twist Bioscience has already made considerable progress using DNA as a storage solution. Last year, the company conducted a test with Microsoft in which 100 per cent of the data they encoded was put into and then retrieved from test DNA.

Twist Bioscience has seen the costs of producing its synthetic, storage-ready DNA decrease significantly which will make releasing a commercial version of a product that incorporates this technology happen much sooner than what was previously thought possible.

The company was able to raise $131 million from investors to help it further develop and lower the costs of its technology. One of those investors was Boris Nikolic who is one of the chief science advisers at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

There is an ever-growing demand for data storage solutions in a world where more content and content of a higher quality is generated daily, which has helped spark a race for new and unique storage solution options.

Image Credit: Tatiana Shepeleva / Shutterstock

Anthony Spadafora
After living and working in South Korea for seven years, Anthony now resides in Houston, Texas where he writes about a variety of technology topics for ITProPortal.