Data Storage to Outlast Human Kind

A quartz crystal could provide near-eternal data storage

quartz, crystal, nano, disc, storage, TB, terrabyte, data, text, document, infinity, million, year, life, polaroid, polarizeResearchers have created a new quartz-based technology that could vastly improve data storage and provide “storage-discs” with a nearly unlimited lifespan.

In a process that uses a high speed femtosecond laser, researchers at the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) have written a 300kb text file into a self-assembled nanostructure “disc” created within a piece of fused quartz.

If that weren’t mind boggling enough, scientists at the ORC claim the data was stored in 5 separate dimensions; the three you are thinking of, plus two more — size and orientation.

According to the group’s paper the tiny disc stored within the quartz crystal was composed of three layers stippled with nanostructured dots. As the laser passed through the quartz and began writing data on the disc, the nanostructures altered the laser light’s path, modifying the polarization of the light while making no changes to the surrounding quartz. With these subtle changes in polarization, the researchers were able to embed a text document on to the self-assembled nanostructure.

The ORC group believes that with their new technology they could store up to 360 TB on a single disk that could last for 1 million years due to the hardness of the discs quartz exterior.

Jingyu Zhang, lead researcher on the project says they’ve created a new paradigm in data storage methods, “We are developing a very stable and safe form of portable memory using glass, which could be highly useful for organizations with big archives. At the moment companies have to back up their archives every five to ten years because hard-drive memory has a relatively short lifespan.”

Aside from storing reams of spreadsheets and memos, this type of technology could be used to preserve important cultural documents, creating an archive that could last for millions of years. Professor Peter Kazansky, the ORC’s lead supervisor may have best summed up the value of this technology, “It is thrilling to think that we have created the first document which will likely survive the human race. This technology can secure the last evidence of civilization: all we’ve learnt will not be forgotten.”

Image Courtesy of the University of Southhampton