A DNA solution of about nine liters could possibly store all the digital information in the world, the New York Times reports, noting that nine liters is about the amount of liquid held by a case of wine.
It says that two research groups — one from the University of Washington and Microsoft and the other from the University of Illinois — have shown that digital files can be retrieved from such a dataset.
DNA-based storage, the Times adds, relies on the molecule's self-assembly function. A file like a picture, it says, could be divided into a number of pieces that are then encoded into different DNA strands. But unique identifiers attached to those pieces lets researchers later pluck out those sequences using PCR to then reassemble the files.
According to the Times, the Illinois team encoded bits of the Wikipedia pages about six universities, and then selected and edited parts of the text that was written in DNA. The University of Washington and Microsoft researchers, meanwhile, showed that they could store four small image files and recall them, with only one error.
"DNA is a remarkable media for long-term storage," says Karin Strauss from Microsoft. "All you have to do is keep it cold and dry."