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New DNA Storage technology promises to write 20GB of data … in a day

Microsoft Research, DNA Storage
(Image credit: Microsoft)

A team from the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) has come up with a microchip that can vastly improve the speed at which data can be written in DNA form. And like the Microsoft announcement that we covered earlier today, they have a proof-of-concept working prototype.

A report from the BBC quotes Nicholas Guise, a senior research scientist at GTRI saying that they expect a 100x improvement over existing technology for DNA storage. Currently the record for writing data to DNA stands at 200MB per day, meaning that the GTRI’s new chip could push it up to 20GB per day, which is roughly equivalent to 8GB per hour.

In comparison, LTO-9, the most recent tape technology, can reach up to 400MBps or 1440GB per hour, 180x more but DNA storage is still in its infancy, with no mainstream, mass-produced, commercial products available and improvements in reading, writing and price are likely to to be in logarithmic in nature rather than linear as it is the case for tape.

Not surprisingly, a number of companies have expressed interest in using DNA. GTRI is already partnering with two companies to bring the technology to market. Microsoft has explored DNA storage since 2014 while CATALOG is looking to use DNA both for storage and compute with Shannon

Not there yet

DNA storage is a promising data storage technology for a number of reasons. Other than its fantastically high data density, about 67TB per cubic millimeter (or 1.1EB per cubic inch) using current technologies, it is also incredibly durable and can last far longer than most media, with a half life of over 500 years.

In addition, reading DNA data doesn’t depend on one single method or process. As a comparison, try to read a floppy disk drive from the 1990s. Unless you have an old computer around, it’s pretty much mission impossible.

However, it will be at least a decade before it becomes a serious competitor to tape and that’s not accounting for holographic storage which might join the duo. So don’t expect to get your cold storage, cloud backup or cloud storage from DNA just yet. As for replacing hard drives or SSD, it’s even further out there. 

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.