It was reported that Microsoft, which is currently working with a head of researchers at the University of Washington, made a breakthrough in using DNA for data storage. The first nanoscale DNA storage writer was described by the company and it is expected to scale for a data density which is about 1,000 times higher than before.
It’s necessary to point out that data is being generated at a rate that exceeds current storage capacity.
All these characteristics such as density, longevity, sustainability, and ease of replication, make synthetic DNA an attractive prospect for long-term data storage. It is estimated that DNA is capable of storing 1EB, which is equal to one million TB per square inch. It seems incredible that magnitudes are higher linear tape-open storage. Hypothetically, storing data this way could also keep it safe for thousands of years.
For now, DNA storage is not quite useful because of its high expense and extremely slow read and write throughput. The first nanoscale DNA storage writer was demonstrated thanks to the partnership with the University of Washington’s Molecular Information Systems Laboratory, and it is the company’s latest advance.
An electrode array and demonstrated DNA synthesis was produced by the researchers. It has electrode sizes and pitches that help the 25 million oligonucleotides per square cm be enabled.
After the demonstration, the next step was to evaluate the maximum length of DNA that could be synthesised reliably using the nanoarray. A 100-nucleotide-long DNA sequence was settled on as an example for a good length for their demonstration.
A study has been published in a Science Advances paper. According to this research, the quality of DNA was demonstrated, and it synthesised using the nanoarray. This was sufficient for DNA data storage by encoding a 40-byte message, which says ‘Empowering every person to store more!’.
The technology is expected to scale to billions of features per square cm, which will be capable of enabling synthesis write throughput in order to reach megabyte per second levels – approximately 1,000 times higher than previously demonstrated. This may make DNA storage competitive with other forms of storage.
“More broadly, this work demonstrates control over the electronic-to-molecular interface, which we posit opens a door to new applications. For example, electrochemical control methods enable spatial control of enzymes at the nanoscale. Beyond DNA, this could also be a tool for drug discovery, by enabling rapid combinatorial organic synthesis as a platform for screening drug-protein binding kinetics. Other examples are a tool for assays that detect disease biomarkers or even a platform for sensing environmental pollutants.” – two of the Microsoft researchers said in a blog post.
Since synthesis happens in parallel, there is a potential to reduce the cost per DNA sequence significantly, which turns out to be an additional benefit.