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.
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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.
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