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Microsoft plans to store data on DNA strands within three years
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Just when you thought the world has enough problems, it seems we humans have created another one, data storage. In the past two years more data has been created than in our entire history. At this rate there may soon be too much data for hard drives to handle. But in recent years a new data storage possibility as emerged in DNA. Now Microsoft believes they can start storing data on strands of DNA within the next three years and expect to have an operational DNA storage system by the end of the decade.

Despite being considered old, at least in the fast paced world of technology, magnetic tape is still the most efficient way to store very large amounts of information in a relatively small space. It is also cheap to manufacture and use and holds information for around 30 years.

Storing digital data on a biological material such as DNA may seem strange but when you consider that in a way, this process has been happening naturally for billions of years it does make some sense. Also consider that if we used DNA in the same way magnetic tape is used today, we could theoretically store all of the world’s data, ever, in around the space of a double garage.

The world witnesses DNA data storage for the first time five years ago when a Harvard University geneticist and colleagues encoded a 52,000 word book (including jpg illustrations) using strands of DNA’s four-letter alphabet. However this process was very slow.

Last year Microsoft was able to demonstrate its own DNA data storage technology when scientists encoded around 200 megabytes worth of data in the form of 100 classic novels. Unfortunately this process was still relatively slow with a transfer rate of about 400 bytes per second. Microsoft believes it needs to get it to around 100 megabytes per second to be a feasible option. The other major hurdle for DNA storage at the moment is the cost to not only record data but also read it. But as technology progresses, DNA data storage may become a viable solution to an inevitable problem.

Last modified on Tuesday, 30 May 2017 14:03

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