Microsoft researchers waited more than two years to be awarded a patent that brings the ability to store data on DNA a little closer – a step likely to be taken backup media such as tape is obsolete.
The patent High-density DNA storage with salt (No. 10,793,852) was filed in 2018, but was not approved by the USPTO until October 2020.
It reads like a kitchen recipe, referring to a dried product formed by “drying a salt solution along with artificially synthesized DNA molecules that encode digital information”. Apparently the cations and anions that play do not affect the result of the process.
Drying the DNA with salt prevents it from breaking down too quickly; Microsoft researchers found that removing fluid reduces the rate of degradation by almost 70% compared to untreated DNA. Likewise, the dry product formed from DNA and a salt has a much higher DNA density, by almost a third.
Salt DNA storage appears to be an exciting (albeit far-fetched) candidate for long-term, high-density archival storage. Unsurprisingly, the patent is cautious about timelines and storage capacities, which is understandable given how far away we are from 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 DDSA (DNA Data Storage Alliance) . The initiative aims to standardize and promote the adoption of a possible future DNA-based storage system.
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