Researchers Have Figured Out How to Store Digital Photos in DNA

Science wants to put your photos in actual DNA snippets

DNA photo storage
There’s a surprising amount of data hidden in that little test tube.Tara Brown Photography/University of Washington

Storing large amounts of digital data over a long period of time is a problem many photographers deal with by stacking huge piles hard drives and ever-growing cloud storage accounts. University of Washington researchers, however, have figured out how to store digital data in DNA.

The team was able to encode four digital photos into "nucleotide sequences of synthetic DNA snippets." Then, they were able to decode the images without losing any of the data. The process is as complicated as it sounds, but it could really have some impressive implications in terms of data storage. According to the report, it could "shrink the space needed to store digital data that today would fill a Walmart Supercenter down to the size of a sugar cube."

Of course, this technology can be used to store any kind of digital data, but the researchers demonstrated the premise with photography because it’s such a common type of data that needs long-term storage.

The research, which is being done as a collaboration with Microsoft, sounds like a surprisingly physical process where molecules are created and then actually dehydrated for storage. The process is currently pretty cost-prohibitive, but then again, what new tech isn’t at its outset?