Microsoft advances DNA-based storage technology

DNA-based storage is a technology that until recently was part of science fiction. Today, several technology companies are developing advanced projects to achieve this. Microsoft is one of them and has announced what it considers a breakthrough, specifically in improving data performance.

The amount of data stored globally keeps increasing. Forecasts from consultancies like IDC say that in 2024 there will be approximately 8.9 zettabytes of data stored. A real outrage that Microsoft translates into a more identifiable context: a single zettabyte would be equivalent to installing Windows 11 on more than 15,000 million computers.

There are several formats for data storage, from optical media to hard drives or SSDs, but perhaps magnetic tape cartridges from companies like IBM are still the most attractive business option due to density / cost.

These cartridges Tape has been around for decades and is a practice that will continue for years to come, but there is strong demand for a modern alternative that offers even higher density and eliminates many of the problems of old technology. This is where this advanced technology comes in that according to Microsoft will prevail in the future.

DNA-based storage

Research in biological storage treats DNA like any other digital storage device. Instead of binary data that is encoded as magnetic regions on a hard drive platter, DNA strands are synthesized that store 96 bits where each of the bases (TGAC) represents a binary value (T and G = 1, A and C = 0).

To read the information stored in DNA, you just have to sequence – as if it were a human genome – and convert each of the TGAC bases back into binary. To help with sequencing, each DNA strand has a 19-bit address block at the beginning (the red bits in the image below) so the DNA can be sequenced out of order and then sorted into usable data. using directions.

The advantages in DNA-based storage are remarkable. Its incredible density would allow to store 1 billion Tbytes in a single gram. In addition to capacity, it would be a memory with zero power consumption, it could survive unalterable for thousands of years and the technology could be used as long as life existed on Earth, something that no other type of “material” can offer.

Microsoft’s recently announced trailer revolves around performance. It is a proof of concept of a molecular controller. The researchers describe this innovation as a “tiny DNA storage writing engine on a chip,” which dramatically improves the precision with which DNA synthesis sites are packaged. The result is proof that higher levels of write performance are possible.

In essence, the storage of synthetic DNA involves moving data from molecules to bits. Microsoft explains that two things are critical to making DNA a viable commercial-scale storage option: “The first requires translating digital bits (ones and zeros) into synthetic DNA strands that represent these bits with coding software and a DNA synthesizer. The second involves reading and decoding the information back into bits to retrieve that information in digital form with a DNA sequencer and decoding software.«.

There are still decades for DNA-based storage to be commercially and massively available, but Microsoft’s announcement they say is another key step. And it is not the only large research group working on this development from which news will arrive in the coming years.

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