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Seagate Partners With DNA Tech Startup for 1000x Data Densities

Catalog works with Seagate
(Image credit: Catalog)

Seagate has a new partner to help advance its quest for domination of the data storage industry. The storage stalwart has teamed up with a DNA-based digital data storage startup called Catalog, which was founded by MIT alumni in 2016. The technical twosome today announced that they will be working on several initiatives together, but the most interesting potential advance could be the work on making DNA-based platforms up to 1,000 times smaller.

Tom’s Hardware has covered the melding of DNA and computer storage technology several times previously. From all those stories, what stands out is the potential for incredible data densities via this organically occurring medium, perfected by nature. In coverage of this topic last year we reported that DNA has the potential to store up to 455 exabytes per gram. This puts to shame a modern 20TB HDD, which is only capable of storing 0.027 terabytes per gram.

Seagate and Catalog aren’t working on any improbably tiny devices together though. They are starting from Catalog’s very sizable DNA-based platform dubbed ‘Shannon’ which is described as being “about the size of an average family kitchen.” Shrinking this DNA storage installation down is still highly worthwhile, and using Seagate’s ‘lab on a chip’ technology to reduce the volume of chemistry required for DNA-based storage and computation it is hoped to shrink this family kitchen setup down to 1000th its current size. By our rough calculations that would mean the new setup would fit within a 7 liter chassis.

(Image credit: Catalog)

Seagate’s ‘lab-on-a-chip’ doesn’t handle code. Instead, it features tiny reservoirs and channels to process miniscule amounts of DNA in liquid form. These reservoirs pump precise mixes of liquids into other reservoirs for controlled reactions and results. The miniaturized technology also facilities greater amounts of automation. With the smaller ‘lab’ it is expected that the next-gen platform will be compact enough to offer commercially viable DNA storage in settings as diverse as offices, ocean research vessels and space stations.

You may be thinking about the data storage capacity these collaborative DAN storage devices using Seagate’s chip can provide. Previous news releases from Catalog have boasted that while hard drive storage can pack in about 30 million gigabytes into a cubic meter of space, its DNA lab can store 600 billion gigabytes in the same volume. Thus a new seven liter version of ‘Shannon’ should store about 4 billion gigabytes, again according to our rough calculations.

Catalog says the first combined test of its DNA storage and Seagate’s technology will begin mid-September. Hopefully, that means we will hear more about the actual working 1000x smaller version of Shannon shortly.

Mark Tyson
Freelance News Writer

Mark Tyson is a Freelance News Writer at Tom's Hardware US. He enjoys covering the full breadth of PC tech; from business and semiconductor design to products approaching the edge of reason.