A team of researchers from the University of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Centre and Eindhoven University of Technology has experimentally proven the possibility of using glass as a data storage medium. The amazing features of this 5D (width/height/depth/2 dimensions of glass Nano structuring) disc are that it has an unlimited lifetime; can store up to 360TB (maximum of 20TB is possible now) of data on a single disc and can withstand temperatures of up to 1000°C! That simply means that “this technology can secure the last evidence of civilization: all we’ve learnt will not be forgotten.” It was dubbed “Superman Memory Crystals” following the memory crystals used by Superman’s parents to store video and data about him. This could well be “the first document that will likely survive the human race.”
To record data, dots called “voxels” are imprinted on silica glass using a femtosecond laser (just in case you forgot, that’s 10-15s). The process makes the glass slightly opaque and polarizes the light as it passes through. This can then be read using an optical detector. Every 280 femtoseconds intense pulses of light encrypt data into layers of nanostructured dots inside a quartz glass. Thanks to the Nano structuring and some clever use of holography, data can be stored in two dimensions. By varying the focus of the laser, layers of dots that are separated by five micrometers were created on a third dimension. Then, by simply moving the laser horizontally and vertically, these tri-bits can be stored in two more dimensions, bringing the total to 5D. The team successfully wrote and read 300KB of data on this everlasting medium.
At the moment, they are looking for industry partners to commercialize this technology. The major applications will be in managing huge quantities of data that will be too expensive, time consuming and too close to being impossible. Museums that have to preserve information or places like the national archives where they have large numbers of documents would really benefit. Usually such data has to be backed up every 5 to 10 years, which account for a tiresome process. In the coming years you can expect using miniaturized replacements for DVD’s and Blu-Rays.
But coming to think of it, it makes me wonder? How on earth are the future generations going to read data from it?