Scientists have developed a five dimensional (5D) digital data disc dubbed as ‘Superman memory crystal’ that has 360 terabyte storage capacity and is capable of surviving for billions of years.
As a very stable and safe form of portable memory, the technology could be highly useful for organisations with big archives, such as national archives, museums and libraries, to preserve their information and records.
Using nanostructured glass, scientists from the University of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) in UK have developed the recording and retrieval processes of 5D digital data by femtosecond laser writing.
The storage allows unprecedented properties including 360 terabyte (Tb) per disc data capacity, thermal stability up to 1,000 degrees Celsius and virtually unlimited lifetime at room temperature (13.8 billion years at 190 degrees Celsius) opening a new era of eternal data archiving.
The technology was first experimentally demonstrated in 2013 when a 300 kilobyte digital copy of a text file was successfully recorded in 5D.
Major documents from human history such as Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Newton’s Opticks, Magna Carta and Kings James Bible, have been saved as digital copies that could survive the human race.
The documents were recorded using ultrafast laser, producing extremely short and intense pulses of light. The file is written in three layers of nanostructured dots separated by five micrometres (one millionth of a metre).
The self-assembled nanostructures change the way light travels through glass, modifying polarisation of light that can then be read by combination of optical microscope and a polariser, similar to that found in Polaroid sunglasses.
Coined as the ‘Superman memory crystal’, as the glass memory has been compared to the “memory crystals” used in the Superman films, the data is recorded via self-assembled nanostructures created in fused quartz.
The information encoding is realised in five dimensions - the size and orientation in addition to the three dimensional position of these nanostructures.
“It is thrilling to think that we have created the technology to preserve documents and information and store it in space for future generations,” said Peter Kazansky, from the ORC. “This technology can secure the last evidence of our civilisation - all we’ve learnt will not be forgotten,” Kazansky said.