DNA Storage

Established: January 1, 2015

The amount of digital data produced has long been outpacing the amount of storage available. This project enables molecular-level data storage into DNA molecules by leveraging biotechnology advances in synthesizing, manipulating and sequencing DNA to develop archival storage. Microsoft and University of Washington researchers are collaborating to use DNA as a high density, durable and easy-to-manipulate storage medium.

Demand for data storage is growing exponentially, but the capacity of existing storage media is not keeping up. Most of the world’s data today is stored on magnetic and optical media. Despite improvements in optical discs, storing a zettabyte of data would still take many millions of units, and use significant physical space. If we are to preserve the world’s data, we need to seek significant advances in storage density and durability. Using DNA to archive data is an attractive possibility because it is extremely dense (up to about 1 exabyte per cubic millimeter) and durable (half-life of over 500 years).

While this is not practical yet due to the current state of DNA synthesis and sequencing, these technologies are improving quite rapidly with advances in the biotech industry. Given the impending limits of silicon technology (end of Moore’s Law), we believe hybrid silicon and biochemical systems are worth serious consideration. Biotechnology has benefitted tremendously from progress in silicon technology developed by the computer industry; now is the time for computer architects to consider incorporating biomolecules as an integral part of computer design.


  • We have recently completed the storage and recovery of 200MB in DNA. More details can be found in this blog post. Included in the set of files we encoded were:
OK Go Video Use authorized by OK Go.
“This Too Shall Pass”
Seed Database © Crop Trust 2010 “Seed samples”
from Crop Trust http://www.nordgen.org/sgsv/, April 2016.
Top 100 Books, Attribution: http://www.gutenberg.org/.
Project Gutenberg
Universal © 1996 – 2009 The Office of the High Commissioner for Human
Declaration Rights Copyright.
of Human © 1991-2016 Unicode, Inc. All rights reserved. Distributed under
Rights the Terms of Use in http://www.unicode.org/copyright.html.


Doug Carmean Luis Ceze* Karin Strauss


Georg Seelig* Randolph Lopez* Matt Mostad Robert Carlson
John Mulligan Hsing-Yeh Parker Yuan-Jyue Chen Siena Dumas Ang
Gagan Gupta Sergey Yekhanin Lee Organick* Alex Ching
Ed Nightingale Bichlien Nguyen Chris Takahashi* Anselm Levskaya
Konstantin Makarychev Miklos Racz Kendall Stewart* Sharon Newman*



James Bornholt* Parikshit Gopalan Krittika d’Silva*


*Affiliation: University of Washington



A DNA-Based Archival Storage System
James Bornholt, Randolph Lopez, Douglas Carmean, Luis Ceze, Georg Seelig, Karin Strauss, in ASPLOS 2016 (International Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems) - to appear, ACM – Association for Computing Machinery, April 1, 2016, View abstract, Download PDF