The Future Is Now: New Glass-Based Discs Can Store Data for More Than 13 Billion Years

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Yes, you read it right; there is a data storing medium that can be used to preserve data for long periods of time. In fact, it has a lifespan of incredible 13.8 billion of years, much more than what our Solar system is old, it can be compared with the age of our Universe.

For thousands of years, the human race has not found a way to store information over long (when compared to the age of Earth) periods of time. Stone tablets crumble, books can burn or rot, hard drives will eventually collapse and photographs can fade. But with a new data storage format that comes from the University of Southampton in the UK, our civilization has a chance to finally succeed in preserving information for generations to come. The trick is in a new way of storing data in nanostructures in the glass. That way, data can be preserved for more than 13 billion years, the medium can store up to 360 terabytes of data and its heat-resisting quality is making medium resistant to temperatures that are in the 190°C range.

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The method first saw the light of day in a research paper published in 2013, it is called five-dimensional data storage, and since then scientists behind the project claim that they perfected the technique. They are now trying to evolve the technology and possibly even commercialize it. Scientists claim that any data format can be transferred onto the medium, and to prove this they have made copies of Isaac Newton’s Opticks, King James Bible, and UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A new paper, containing information about their progress over last three years will be released tomorrow.

So, everyone must be asking themselves “Ok, how this actually works?” Well, the secret is in the new 5D storage technology. Regular discs have lines imprinted in them; every line is made from tiny bumps. When the laser reads disc, light from the bumps is reflected and decoded as 1. If there is no bump, it is coded as 0, a binary way of storing data that has only two dimensions, 1 and 0. The information is stored on the disc’s surface it is vulnerable and can be compromised in a number of ways. 5D discs are different; they store data within themselves (not on the surface) inside tiny structures called ‘Nanogranits’. They change the way the light from the reading laser is deflected, but they have five possible values, not just two. Additional dimensions that exist in 5D discs are information about nanogranit’s orientation, the strength of the light that structure refracts, and its location in three-dimensional space (x, y, z-axes) That’s why they are named 5D discs. This feature also allows for data to be stored much denser that on a regular 2D disc; glass discs can store more than 3000 times the amount of data in comparison to Bly-Ray discs. Impressive.

The longevity of the medium is achieved by storing data in the glass, which is known to be tough material, resistant to heat and chemical agents. This could be the primary way of storing data in the coming future, scientists even claim that some kind of “DVD player” for this glass-based discs can come in the upcoming decades.

All in all, glass-based discs are a really interesting piece of technology and we are excited to see their development in the future.

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