Microsoft is buying ten million strands of DNA from biology startup Twist Bioscience to investigate the use of genetic material to store data.

The data density of DNA is orders of magnitude higher than conventional storage systems, with 1 gram of DNA able to represent close to 1 billion terabytes (1 zettabyte) of data. DNA is also remarkably robust; DNA fragments thousands of years old have been successfully sequenced.

These properties make it an intriguing option for long-term data archival. Binary data has already been successfully stored as DNA base pairs, with estimates in 2013 suggesting that it would be economically viable for storage of 500 years or more.

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