Skip to main content

This revolutionary storage technology could make hard drives and tape obsolete

(Image credit: Shutterstock / carlos castilla)

The world may be inching closer to the launch of the first commercially viable solution that can use DNA to store data. 

Catalog, which bills itself as the world’s first DNA-based platform for massive digital data storage, has recently raised $10 million in funding. It has used this to bring onboard the man who led the commercialization of the IBM Deep Blue supercomputer, which earned a place in popular tech folklore after defeating the then-world Champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. 

The company's new device, named Shannon, managed to store the full English text version of Wikipedia - 16GB in all - on man-made DNA molecules.

DNA storage

The end goal of such a process would be to produce a storage medium that has a shelf life measured in hundreds of years, and the ability to store over one million GB of data in a device the size of a sugar cube (10mm x 10mm x 10mm). 

That's equivalent to a data density of one Exabyte per cubic centimeter, several orders of magnitude better than even the densest commercial media at the moment (likely to be 1TB microSD cards).

Right now though the biggest barriers to mass adoption are size (Shannon is the size of a family kitchen), price (unknown at the time of writing but likely to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars) and writing speed (a pedestrian 10Mbps). 

Catalog says that its technology can store up to 1.6Tb (200GB) of compressed data in one single run but doesn’t say what the compression ratio is. 10Mbps is 1.25MBps and writing 1TB would take 800,000 seconds or nearly 10 days.

Desire Athow

Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Then followed a weekly tech column in a local business magazine in Mauritius, a late night tech radio programme called Clicplus and a freelancing gig at the now-defunct, Theinquirer, with the legendary Mike Magee as mentor. Following an eight-year stint at ITProPortal.com where he discovered the joys of global techfests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. He has an affinity for anything hardware and staunchly refuses to stop writing reviews of obscure products or cover niche B2B software-as-a-service providers.