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Researchers Have Created Data Storage That Could Last a Million Years

Concept art explaining a five-dimensional femtocell-laser storage device. Image courtesy of IEEE


In what could only be considered as reality imitating art, the famous data storage crystals used by Superman in comic books now has a real-life, scientific analogue. Researchers at the University of Southampton have reported that experiments using femtocell-laser inscription to create five-dimensional digital data storage were successful.

These experiments allowed the researchers to demonstrate a way to write and read up to 360 TB of digital data on a simple disk of quartz glass. This data storage process is reported to be able to withstand temperatures of 1000 Celsius while allowing for stable storage of the data for upwards of one million years. This breakthrough means that it is currently possible to record the history of the human race in a format that might possibly outlive humans.

How It Works

The process the researchers use depends on a pulsating laser that, when aimed through a modulator and split into 256 beams, creates a holographic image on the quartz glass disk. The hologram is a five-dimensional matrix that uses normal coordinates such as x, y, and z along with two added data points which are the size and directionality of the holographic dot created by the pulsating laser.

The data can then be accessed using a relatively simple optical microscope and a filter that is polarized like many sunglasses today, which is used to limit the viewing angles of the holographic dots and allow them to be read properly.

Indefinite Lifetime

Once this technology becomes more readily available, the long-term storage of mission-critical and irreplaceable data will become truly stable for the first time since CD and DVD storage was replaced due to the capacity limits. As backups and critical file storage began to see its first petabyte files sizes, the 4.7GB storage capacity of a DVD became unrealistic.

This technology could also allow for a much lower cost storage medium for databanks and libraries as the storage medium is a simple material compared to the high-cost, low-shelf life SSDs that populate datacenters now.

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