Opening a new era of eternal data archiving, scientists at University of Southampton have developed the recording and retrieval processes of five dimensional (5D) digital data using ultrafast laser writing in nanostructured glass.
The storage allows unprecedented properties including 360 TB (terabyte)/disc data capacity, thermal stability up to 1,000 degree Celsius and virtually unlimited lifetime at room temperature (13.8 billion years at 190 degree Celsius ), the researchers said.
“It is thrilling to think that we have created the technology to preserve documents and information and store it in space for future generations. This technology can secure the last evidence of our civilisation: all we have learnt will not be forgotten,” Peter Kazansky, professor at University of Southampton in Britain, said in an official statement.
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.
The technology was first experimentally demonstrated in 2013 when a 300 kb (kilobyte) digital copy of a text file was successfully recorded in 5D.
Now, major documents from human history such as Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), 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 researchers explained.
The information encoding is realised in five dimensions: the size and orientation in addition to the three dimensional position of these nanostructures.
The study will be presenting at the photonics industry’s renowned SPIE-The International Society for Optical Engineering Conference in San Francisco, US on Wednesday.