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Microsoft, UW raise the bar on DNA data storage

Image: DNA in test tube
The pink smear of DNA at the end of this test tube can store incredible amounts of encoded digital data. (Credit: Tara Brown Photography / University of Washington)

Computer scientists from Microsoft and the University of Washington say they’ve set a new standard for DNA storage of digital data – but they acknowledge that the standard won’t last long.

For now, the bar is set at 200 megabytes. That’s how much data the researchers were able to encode in synthetic DNA pairings, and then correctly read out again. The encoded files included a high-definition music video by the band OK Go, titled “This Too Shall Pass”… the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in more than 100 languages … the top 100 books from Project Gutenberg … and the Crop Trust’s global seed database.

But Karin Strauss, the principal Microsoft researcher on the project, acknowledges that so much more is theoretically possible.

“You could pack an exabyte of data in an inch cubed,” she told GeekWire. An exabyte is equal to 8 quintillion bits of information, which is much more information than is contained in the Library of Congress. (Exactly how much more? That’s a matter of debate.)

Get the full story on GeekWire.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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