Scientists are working on a new type of computer memory which would allow the safe and long-term storage of hundreds of terabytes of data. And by long term, they mean theoretically forever.
Using high speed lasers, they have been able to record and retrieve information from glass, leading to the discovery of what its inventors endearingly call Superman memory crystals.
This impressive data storage system developed by University of Southampton researchers will have practically unlimited lifetime and a storage capacity of up to 360TB of data – the equivalent of 580,000 CDs.
While regular hard drive memory can last a couple of decades and is vulnerable to strong temperature variations, moisture, magnetic fields, this memory crystal is extremely dense and durable, having the potential to last indefinitely. The nanostructured glass crystal used in the research can also withstand temperatures of up to 1,800° F.
How it works
The data is written on the memory crystal, which is about the size of a normal CD, with a femtosecond laser (femtosecond stands for a millionth of a billionth of a second).
The information is encoded in five dimensions – the dimensional position of the glass nanostructures plus intensity and polarization of the laser beam, making for what researchers named 5D data storage.
The process used practically changes the manner in which light travels through glass and thus creates polarized light which can be read with a polarizer and an optical microscope, just like the data in optical fibers.
Researchers have already been able to successfully record and retrieve a 300kb text file. Interestingly enough, the memory crystal would work just like a rewritable disc, meaning that the stored information can be erased and replaced with new data. The current writing speed is 12 Kbit/s, but scientists hope this can rise to about 8 Mbit/s and even several Gbit/s with future research.
This Superman memory crystal can have multiple uses in fields for storage of high capacity important data. Not to mention the obvious use any sci-fi fan has already considered: storing the entire history of humankind for the next generations or for some alien race that may stumble upon our planet long after humans are extinct.