Catalog – the DNA data-storage company which stores data in DNA strands using enzymes, has announced that it has successfully stored 16GB of data onto DNA strands to demonstrate the newest technology in data-storage.

From floppy discs to cloud, data storage has come a long way. Even though their evolution has ushered the introduction of more sophisticated systems of data storage, they still lack the longevity and capacity to store the enormous amount of data we create today. According to researches, the world will generate 160 zettabytes of data in 2025. That’s more bytes than there are stars in the observable universe.

One solution to the limitations of present day computer data-storage systems lies in a data-storage technology as old as life on Earth. DNA has million times more data density than today’s flash drives, can last for thousands of years, and is the most secure form of information storage.

Catalog – a biotechnology firm based out of Boston, is harnessing DNA to store and compute the world’s data in a cost-effective way. Recently, Catalog announced that it has successfully stored all of the text of Wikipedia’s English-language version into DNA strands.

Though this may sound like the scientists are taking a step backwards, the use of DNA, which is the essence of everything in this world, looks like the most feasible and secure solution to the world’s data problem. The storage ratio of hard drives is about 30m gigabytes per cubic meter. Catalog’s method can store 600bn gigabytes in the same volume.

The foundation of DNA data-storage is to see the ones and zeros of binary data and the chemical base pairs of deoxyribose nucleic acid as equivalent and to pair them together. However, when the time comes to access this kind of data through sequencing machines, it is not that easy. Reading computer data consisting these binary pairs is simple, but the same system renders useless when it comes to DNA storage. Also, tweaking data once stored is again a major problem.

The founders of Catalog – Hyunjun Park and Nathaniel Roquet use enzymes to alter strands of DNA rather than building them up piece by piece. This enzyme system is able to assemble short molecules into longer ones in whatever order desired. The firm uses 100 different DNA molecules which means trillions of combinations are possible – hence allowing them to store enormous amounts of data.

Such a method is also cost-efficient as it eliminates the need to build new DNA molecules. Making copies of existing DNA molecules, like in Catalog’s DNA data-storage method, is cheaper. The company’s DNA writer can record 4 megabits per second in DNA. With more developments, the writer can store 125 gigabytes in one day.

“We have discussions underway with government agencies, major international science projects that generate huge amounts of test data, major firms in oil and gas, media and entertainment, finance, and other industries,” said the company Catalog said in a statement.