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Data Storage Devices made from DNA to Hit the Market in 2019

Posted August 31, 2018

Who would’ve thought that one of the most ancient technologies in the world – DNA – could make a comeback and jump right at forefront of technological advancement? Catalog – a start-up company from the U.S. – has announced its efforts to develop the world’s first DNA-based storage device which uses 500 trillion DNA molecules.

According to the company, a device the size of a sugar cube would be capable of storing all of the movies humanity had produced up until now, and allow them to be retrieved as many as 10,000 years later.

The key problem to be solved in developing the technology – which has already been demonstrated to work quite well, at least in principle ­– is reducing its price. As it stands, recording one minute’s worth of audio would cost a staggering 100,000 dollars.

In order to address the issue, Catalog plans to simplify the coding process by ditching the current methods which rely on unique strands of DNA, and going for a variety of DNA molecules composed of no more than 30 base pairs.

DNA data-storage device, estimated to reach the market by 2019, could allow data to be retrieved after 10,000 years of dormancy. Image credit: Caroline Davis2010 via, CC BY 2.0.

The architect of the new approach, Hyunjun Park, likens it to a printing press – instead of recreating the data letter-by-letter, it will be copied using individual molecules of DNA which stand for each typeface.

“By rearranging these premade molecules in different ways, we can organize all the different words into the original order of the book,“ explained Park.

This will eliminate the need for synthesising new DNA for each dataset, thereby dramatically reducing the price of storage.

Given that all data stored on the new device will be encrypted, Catalog hopes to offer it to public authorities, IT companies and Hollywood movie studios as soon as by 2019.

Storing data with the help of DNA also received attention from the Intelligence Advanced Research Project Activity (IARPA) which had recently announced its plan to develop compact machines capable of storing and retrieving data from large batches of polymers.

Regardless of whether the above initiatives succeed in achieving their goals by next year, one thing is clear – current data-storage technologies are already on their out.


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