Here’s Microsoft's secret recipe for storage success: salt and DNA

DNA storage
(Image credit: Catalog)

Microsoft researchers waited more than two years to be assigned a patent that brings the possibility of storing data on DNA a little closer - a move likely to make backup media such as tape obsolete.

The High-density DNA storage with salt patent (no. 10,793,852) was filed back in 2018, but only received approval at the USPTO in October 2020. 

It reads like a kitchen recipe, referring to a dried product formed by “drying a salt solution together with artificially synthesized DNA molecules encoding digital information”. Apparently, the cations and anions at play do not influence the result of the process.

Salt solution?

Drying the DNA with salt prevents it from degrading too fast; Microsoft researchers found that removing liquid reduces the rate of degradation by nearly 70% compared with untreated DNA. Likewise, the dry product formed from DNA and a salt have a far higher DNA density, by almost one third.

DNA storage with salt seems to be an exciting (albeit far-fetched) candidate for long-term, high-density storage for archival purposes. Unsurprisingly, the patent is coy about timeframes and storage capacities, which is understandable given how far we are from getting a product.

The news comes a few days after Microsoft announced it has joined forces with Western Digital, the world’s largest storage company, and a few others to launch the DDSA (DNA Data Storage Alliance) . The initiative aims to standardize and promote the adoption of a potential future DNA-based storage system.

Via StorageNewsletter

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.