5D data storage crams 360TB on a tiny disc forever

Posted by | March 18, 2016 | 5d storage, glass, lasers, quartz, storage, Technology | No Comments
If you need to archive data, you probably rely upon hard drives or flash memory. These are certainly better than those old rewritable CDs that would last a few years if you were lucky. That’s nothing compared to the storage system developed by researchers at Southampton University in the UK. Using quartz glass and lasers, they’ve created a disk that can hold up to 360 terabytes of data for billions of years.

Creating these data disks requires more specialized equipment than you’ll find in your home PC’s optical drive (assuming you even have one of those anymore). A femtosecond laser is used to fire pulses at a slice of quartz glass, which alters the 3D structure of the crystals. The result is three layer of nanoscale dots, just five micrometers apart from each other. They call this 5D storage. These dots are used to encode the data, but reading it is similarly complex. To retrieve the data, you have to pulse light at the glass again, and record the polarization of the waves with a microscope as they pass through.

To prove that their 5D system worked, the researchers encoded some of humanity’s most famous works on glass including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Newton’s Opticks, the Magna Carta, and the Kings James Bible. A copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was presented to UNESCO last year. They probably don’t have the laser to read it, but at least it has a pretty inscription.

5D_optical_memory

This is obviously much less data than the promised 360 terabytes, but it’s just a test of the system. The 360 terabyte number comes from an extrapolation of the data density, which is much higher than previous attempts at 5D storage — those topped out at about 40MB per square inch. Based on the properties of quartz, the team estimates data stored in this fashion will be viable for 13.8 billion years and could survive temperatures of up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. They are now working on commercializing the technology, but I’m not sure who’s actually going to need storage that lasts a few billion years.

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Source: Science – Geek.com

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