A copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights encoded into an imperishable memory crystal

5D glass data storage enshrines key documents of history

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Newton’s Optics, Magna Carta and King James’s Bible have been encoded into an imperishable 5D data storage in order to preserve them forever.

The technology has been developed by Southampton University researchers and uses a femtosecond laser to encode massive amounts of data into a nanostructured glass in five dimensions. This will ensure that cornerstone documents of human civilisation will survive the human race.

“It is thrilling to think that we have created the technology to preserve documents and information and store it in space for future generations,” said Professor Peter Kazansky from the University of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Centre.

“This technology can secure the last evidence of our civilisation: all we’ve learnt will not be forgotten.”

The technology, which can now store up to 360TB of data, was first demonstrated in 2013. At that time, the researchers managed to store a 300K text file into the glass, which has subsequently been nicknamed the ‘Superman memory crystal’, as it resembles the memory crystals used in the Superman films.

The crystal can survive temperatures of up to 1,000°C. In ambient temperatures, the data would survive intact almost indefinitely. The researchers estimate that if the crystal was stored at 190°C, it would be possible to retrieve the text written inside after 13.8 billion years, which is the age of the Universe.

The technology represents a major breakthrough in archiving as it would allow major institutions with large archives and libraries to securely store all their written records within one single portable glass disc.

The femtosecond laser used to encode the information produces extremely short and intense pulses of light. The data is encoded in three layers of nanostructured dots separated by five micrometres. Together with the size and orientation, there are five dimensions in total in which the text is written.

The text can be read from the crystal by a combination of an optical microscope and a polariser similar to Polaroid sunglasses.

A copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights UDHR stored in the Superman memory crystal has recently been presented to UNESCO.

The Southampton University researchers are now looking for industry partners to further develop and commercialise the technology.

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