On the way towards immortal optical supermemory storage

First document stored into immortal 5D optical memory

Scientists of the University of Southampton have achieved a major break-through storing a 300kb text file in nanostructured glass.

Using ultrafast, short and intense laser pulses, the team has managed to encode the file into three layers of nano-dots separated by five micrometres of glass.  By doing do, they have moved towards so far science-fiction-based capabilities resembling the memory crystals known from the Superman films.

It is the first real presentation of a method introduced at this year’s Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics in San Jose.

“We are developing a very stable and safe form of portable memory using glass, which could be highly useful for organisations with big archives,” said Jingyu Zhang, the leader of the University of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) team who is conducting the research jointly with the Eindhoven University of Technology. “At the moment, companies have to back up their archives every five to ten years because hard-drive memory has a relatively short lifespan.”

The innovative storage method is believed to allow unprecedented parameters including 360 TB/disc data capacity, thermal stability up to 1000 °C and practically unlimited lifetime.
“It is thrilling to think that we have created the first document which will likely survive the human race. This technology can secure the last evidence of civilisation: all we’ve learnt will not be forgotten,” Professor Peter Kazansky, the ORC’s group supervisor commented on the recent break-through.

The data is recorded in self-assembled nanostructures created in fused quartz. The information encoding is realised in five dimensions: the size and orientation in addition to the three dimensional position of these nanostructures.

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.

The team believes the technology, funded in the framework of EU's Femtoprint project would find many applications including storage and preservation of information in museums and national archives

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