Remember the memory crystals in the "Superman" movies? Well, something similar is already becoming a reality right here on Earth. Well, not the exact kind of glittering crystals that Superman used to generate holograms of people from his home planet, though. Instead, they take the form of small glass discs that can store gargantuan amounts of data and will still be fully functional, probably even fifty generations from now!
Researchers in the UK have developed a way of storing digital data inside tiny structures contained in glass. Each disc can hold up to 360 terabytes of data, the equivalent of 22,500 basic iPhones, and have already been used to store historic documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Bible. The storage technology is so stable and safe that it can survive for billions of years, scientists at the University of Southampton said recently, and the data storage capacity is a lot longer than your average computer hard drive.
The wizardry involved in making this breakthrough feat is invisible to the human eye. The scientists use a sophisticated laser to encode the information into minuscule formations, known as nanostructures, inside fused quartz. The structures alter the way light travels through the glass, allowing the data to be read by special optical devices.
The researchers call the data storage 5D, because the information is translated into five different dimensions of the nanostructures — their height, length, width, orientation and position.
This technology can secure the last evidence of our civilisation: all we've learned will not be forgotten, said Peter Kazansky, a professor at the university.
The scientists from Southampton, who are presenting their research at an international conference in San Francisco, say they are looking for industry partners to further develop and commercialise the technology.