Researchers develop ‘Superman memory crystal’ that could store 360TB of data forever

Researchers at the University
of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Center have developed a new
form of data storage that could potentially survive for billions of
years. The research consists of nanostructured glass that can record digital data in five dimensions using femtosecond laser writing.

crystal storage contains 360TB per disc and is stable at up to 1,000
degrees celsius. You record data using an ultra-fast laser that produces
short and intense pulses of light — on the order of one quadrillionth
of a second each — and it writes the file in fused quartz, in three
layers of nanostructured dots separated by five micrometers. Reading the
data back requires pulsing the laser again, and recording the
polarization of the waves with an optical microscope and polarizer. The
five dimensions consist of the size and orientation in addition to the
three-dimensional position of the nanostructures.

The group coined the storage the “Superman memory crystal” after the crystals found in the Superman films.

is thrilling to think that we have created the technology to preserve
documents and information and store it in space for future generations,”
professor Peter Kazansky, from the Optoelectronics Research Center,
said in a statement. “This technology can secure the last evidence of
our civilization: all we’ve learnt will not be forgotten.”

5D Memory

group says the crystals have a virtually unlimited lifetime at room
temperature, or 13.8 billion year lifespan at 190 degrees Celsius (hey,
that’s the age of the Universe). In 2013, the researchers first stored a
300K text file in five dimensions using the same technology. So far,
the group has encoded major documents from human history like the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Newton’s Opticks, the
Magna Carta, and the King James Bible as digital copies that could
theoretically survive humans on our planet.

There’s no word yet on
the speed of data storage or the cost of the materials or lasers
necessary to create these crystals; we imagine they’re not something
you’re going to be able to order from Newegg next week. Nonetheless, the
group plans to present the research at the International Society for
Optical Engineering Conference in San Francisco this week. It says the
storage could be useful for national archives, museums, libraries, and
other organizations with tremendous amounts of data to store.

Back in August, a team of scientists presented a way to use genetic material — DNA — to store virtually unlimited amounts of data for 2,000 years or more. DNA storage is known
to be extremely slow, even with modern, high-throughput sequencing. But
like the Superman memory crystals described above, we’re talking about
massive archival data storage, not booting into Fallout 4 more quickly.


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