Researchers demonstrate palm-size 5D silica glass storage medium with 500 TB capacity
Even though Blu-ray discs are still a thing thanks to the movie industry, disc-based storage media in general is regarded as antiquated as of late since physical copies of video games are not that popular anymore, and access to high-capacity ultra-portable HDDs is relatively affordable now. Nevertheless, all these storage media, tape included, are still subject to data loss and degradation over time. During the past several decades, Scientists have been trying to find a long-lived archival solution to store data for posterity, and the latest endeavor in this field comes from a team of researchers at the University of Southampton, UK that proposes a high-speed laser method of writing onto five-dimensional palm-sized silica glass structures with capacities of 500 TB and beyond.
Researchers explain that the high-speed laser can use three spatial dimensions and two optical dimensions to write data onto silica glass. A single laser source can write 1 million voxels per second or 230 KB/s, but the scientists specify that these speeds can be greatly improved if the write head combines many parallel laser sources. As such, speeds can be increased to around 100 MB/s so a 500 TB glass structure could be filled in ~60 days. All this on a palm-sized structure.
Now, despite the long-lasting nature of this storage medium that is not affected by magnetic or electric issues, there is still a chance that the glass could crack if not encased properly. That is why scientists are using high-repetition femtosecond laser sources in order to control the data inscription. As a result of the interaction between laser and silica glass, nanolamellar data structures measuring 500 x 50 nm are formed.
Besides the three spatial dimensions, scientists are also employing the behaviour of the soliton particles that result from the slow axis orientation of light through the nanolamellar structures as the fourth dimension. This gives another set of binary coordinates: if the soliton is identified, value is set to 1, and if there is no soliton, data value becomes 0. The fifth dimension comes with the strength of retardance of each nanostructure, which causes a variance in the speed of light depending on structure size.
Apparently, this technology could be ready sooner than expected, as researchers already managed to write 5 GB of data with 100% readout. Additionally, the nanolamelllar structures are supposed to last forever. Provided the glass medium is well protected, of course.