One of the disadvantages with modern data storage techniques lies in the failure of the medium on which it is stored. Mechanical hard drives inevitably fail and flash storage wears out.
These are digital related issues of course, but storage of information has always involved some form of deterioration, for example, photographs and books.
In our daily lives we’ve nearly all had to transfer movies from VHS to DVD, or documents and images from floppy disk to CD.
Until now there hasn’t been a true ‘save and forget’ medium for long term storage of data. And by long term we really mean long term.
Scientists at the UK’s
University of Southampton have developed the recording and retrieval process of five dimensional (5D) digital data by femtosecond laser writing on nanostructured glass.
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.
Optical disks of today reflect light in two dimensions, but 5D glass disks now will do this in five dimensions - the nanograting orientation, ‘strength’ of refraction and its location within the x, y and z axis.
The storage promises 360TB disk/storage capacity, thermal storage up to 1,000°C and almost unlimited lifetime at room temperature (13.8 billion years at 190°C).
Already 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.
Professor Peter Kazansky, from the University’s Optoelectronics Research Centre says: “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’ve learnt will not be forgotten.”
This technology may well preserve the memory and plans of some of man’s greatest and most intriguing structures long after they’ve weathered and crumbled.
Structures like the pyramids, Rome’s Colosseum and England’s Stonehenge may now be ‘preserved’ for posterity and to be able to remembered in billions of years’ time.