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By Mike Cobb, Director of Engineering at DriveSavers
Tiny Glass Disks Promise Huge Data Storage Potential
Researchers in England say they have developed working models of a 5-D glass storage device that can hold more data per square inch than anything else on Earth, is nearly indestructible and can possibly outlive the human race.
The news comes from the University of Southampton, where they are experimenting with one-inch glass disks (slightly smaller than a 50-cent coin) that can store up to 360 terabytes of information.
The researchers say the disks are stable at temperatures up to 1,000 degrees Centigrade and have an expected lifespan of 13.8 billion years.
“As a very stable and safe form of portable memory, the technology could be highly useful for organizations with big archives, such as national archives, museums and libraries, to preserve their information and records,” said the report.
To prove the concept, which was first proposed in 1996 and presented in 2013, the researchers used the so-called “Superman Memory Crystals” to store copies of the King James Bible, Isaac Newton’s Opticks, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from the United Nations.
According to the university report that was released last month, the documents were recorded in five dimensions using ultrafast lasers that emit extremely short and intense beams of light.
“The data is recorded via self-assembled nanostructures created in fused quartz,” the report said. “The information encoding is realized in five dimensions: the size and orientation in addition to the three dimensional position of these nanostructures.”
The simple concept is similar to writing to a CD, DVD or any other optical media. There is a focused laser that writes to a media. It then requires a similar laser device to read it. What makes the Superman crystal different is that the laser wavelength is microscopic in size, allowing for much greater density of the data.
The new storage technology used to write the data is in five dimensions: 3D plus size and orientation which is created by polarization, thus making it 5D. To read, it requires a polarizer, a microscope and, likely, a specialized laser. The microscope is used to magnify the data so the laser can read it.
What also makes this unique is the nanostructured glass that the researchers are writing to, which makes it incredibly stable.
The next step for those involved in the research is to find a partner to commercialize the concept. It appears that the researchers are only targeting the archive industry, which suggests that the 5D data storage technology is read-only and therefore only useful for archiving data.
Want to read more about this exciting new data storage technology? Here are some great links: