5D optical memory in glass could record the last evidence of civilization

Jul 09, 2013
The image shows the digital data recorded into 5D optical data storage. Credit: University of Southampton

Using nanostructured glass, scientists at the University of Southampton have, for the first time, experimentally demonstrated the recording and retrieval processes of five dimensional digital data by femtosecond laser writing. The storage allows unprecedented parameters including 360 TB/disc data capacity, thermal stability up to 1000°C and practically unlimited lifetime.

Coined as the 'Superman' memory crystal, as the memory has been compared to the "memory crystals" used in the Superman films, the data is recorded via self-assembled nanostructures created in fused quartz, which is able to store vast quantities of data for over a million years. The information encoding is realised in five dimensions: the size and orientation in addition to the three dimensional position of these nanostructures.

A 300 kb digital copy of a text file was successfully recorded in 5D using ultrafast laser, producing extremely short and of light. The file is written in three layers of nanostructured dots separated by five micrometres.

The self-assembled nanostructures change the way light travels through glass, modifying polarisation of light that can then be read by combination of and a polariser, similar to that found in Polaroid sunglasses.

The research is led by the ORC researcher Jingyu Zhang and conducted under a joint project with Eindhoven University of Technology.

"We are developing a very stable and safe form of portable memory using glass, which could be highly useful for organisations with big archives. At the moment companies have to back up their archives every five to ten years because hard-drive has a relatively short ," says Jingyu.

"Museums who want to preserve information or places like the where they have huge numbers of documents, would really benefit."

The Physical Optics group from the ORC presented their ground-breaking paper at the photonics industry's renowned Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics (CLEO'13) in San Jose. The paper, '5D Data Storage by Ultrafast Laser Nanostructuring in Glass' was presented by the during CLEO's prestigious post deadline session.

Professor Peter Kazansky, the ORC's group supervisor, adds: "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."

The team are now looking for industry partners to commercialise this ground-breaking new technology.

This work was done in the framework of EU project Femtoprint.

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User comments : 51

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El_Nose
2 / 5 (1) Jul 09, 2013
360 TB could hold the entirety of everything a human hears and sees in SD.
Noumenon
2.4 / 5 (38) Jul 09, 2013
That's a lot of porn.
axemaster
5 / 5 (14) Jul 09, 2013
The NSA would like to have a word with these gentlemen...
holoman
3 / 5 (4) Jul 09, 2013
Ferroelectric densities of .2 to .5 Petabits = 200 to 500 Terabits sq. in. / 40 Petabits = 40,000 to 100 Petabits = 100,000 Terabits cu.cm. or 200,000 to 500,000 Gigabits sq.in. / 40,000,000 to 100,000,000 Gigabits cu.cm. with symmetrical read / write times of < 10 picoseconds for 100 year non-volatile storage having infinite re-writes.

Normally the 1.3 to 5 nanometer molecule can switch at < 10 picoseconds while maintaining non-destructive readout of ferroelectric bistable properties at a 5 nanometer cell size.

This is not the end by any means as Tohoku says their target is 4 Petabits a sq. in or 375,000 Terabits cu. cm. using a .4 nanometer cell size.

Then when you go to 3D optical at 10 to 100 layers or more and the
storage capacity can hold all of mankinds data from the beginning of
time to the end of time.
Erebus Immortallita
1.8 / 5 (5) Jul 09, 2013
so where can i buy it :p
Humpty
3 / 5 (11) Jul 09, 2013
Yeah - this is good - BUT in say 1000 years, who will remember, or have the equipment or the technology, to be even able to understand the significance of these funny shaped gemstones?

Hell - if you have enough of them you could probably make nice bricks for around a fire place.
PPihkala
4.6 / 5 (5) Jul 09, 2013
The recorded disc might last, but how about the drive that will do the writing and reading. Even today it is practically impossible to read MFM HDDs, because machines don't anymore have ISA-bus for controller cards.
VendicarE
1.7 / 5 (18) Jul 09, 2013
This government funding of science and technology must stop.

Government is pure evil and pure waste, and success just undermines those facts.
Osiris1
1.4 / 5 (9) Jul 09, 2013
Remember the show: "StarGate-SG1"? Glass rods of various shapes contained all the functions of thousands of circuits. All power was wireless as was signaling. This sounds like the science fiction of then coming to life in the here and now. We are slowly developing the essential enabling technologies of space travel so when we do it, it will be safe. It will probably not use chemical rockets. Chinese will do it first and do it with force fields under computer control, showing us the way and preventing interference by the petro-chem monopoly.
tscati
1.6 / 5 (9) Jul 10, 2013
5D? I know about x,y,z and time - what's the fifth D? And if they already include time does that mean the data is already there before it's written, or can be unwritten in the past so that it was never written? Sounds dodgy for long-term archives!
gmurphy
5 / 5 (3) Jul 10, 2013
So many sci-fi books refer to 'data-crystals' as the storage medium of the future, kudos to these researchers for bringing us one step further to that realisation.
alfie_null
5 / 5 (1) Jul 10, 2013
The (short) paper is here:

http://www.orc.so...lass.pdf

Hope this pans out. Not just to remediate the prospect of the digital dark age, but for all the other decaying media (paper, film, etc.) we need to preserve.

Regarding the ability to read somewhat dated media, like MFM drives - it's not impossible, just slightly difficult. The specs for MFM and ISA interfaces are well known. FPGAs are commodity.
Graeme
not rated yet Jul 10, 2013
For ferroelectrics I was wondering why no one has developed a product. But the natural ferro electric domains tend to be largish - 0.1 mm and would only be changing relatively slowly at the speed of sound. If holoman can really get a 5nm sized cell then he could store 1 petabyte per cubic millimeter. Since this technology does not require power dissipation constantly it can be stacked in three dimensions no problem. Once you can make this technology you could also make a holographic display that needs terrabits per second to get the full output, so that huge capacity will be consumed fast.

ivorybow
5 / 5 (1) Jul 10, 2013
I didn't see an explanation of how the data is to be retrieved. If it requires a complex mechanism, that is current-human-culture specific (how could it be otherwise?), one that is not universally intuitive, then the data could still be lost. Perhaps in a million years a space faring team of exo-archaeologists will visit old Earth and wonder what life was like here. Since pictographs on stone are, up to this development, the most stable data storage system humans have created, I propose an edifice made of some highly stable material. located on a geologically quiet site, with these plates stored securely inside, and pictographs on the surface illustrating how to build a data retrieval system.
Moebius
2 / 5 (8) Jul 10, 2013
Great idea as long as they also encode the method of reading it. (and if you're unable to recognize sarcasm stfu)
antialias_physorg
4.2 / 5 (5) Jul 10, 2013
5D? I know about x,y,z and time

Pro-tip of the day: Read the article before posting (and not just the headline).

I didn't see an explanation of how the data is to be retrieved.

From the article:
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.
geokstr
2 / 5 (8) Jul 10, 2013
Great idea as long as they also encode the method of reading it. (and if you're unable to recognize sarcasm stfu)

Forced to give another "5" rating.

Pigs must surely be flying to Hades with their snowboards.
bearly
not rated yet Jul 10, 2013
Inscribing in rock seems to last longer and everyone knows at a glance that information is waiting to be read.
davehc91360
1 / 5 (1) Jul 10, 2013
How about using this tech to read Mayan crystal skulls?
bugmenot23
1.5 / 5 (4) Jul 10, 2013
That's a lot of porn.

All the porn in existence, with room left over.
ginawelker
1 / 5 (3) Jul 10, 2013
WHAT DOCUMENT DID THEY SAVE ONTO THE GLASS??!!
marcush
1 / 5 (1) Jul 10, 2013
Reminds me of HAL's memory crystals....
P_S_I_
1 / 5 (1) Jul 11, 2013
Cool. That means I can bore my children's children's children's children's children's children's children's children's children's children's children's children with all the home movies I make today!
Argiod
1 / 5 (6) Jul 11, 2013
I dare say that nobody would complain if they called these things 'Isolinear Chips', after Star Trek:TNG...
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (5) Jul 12, 2013
5D? I know about x,y,z and time - what's the fifth D? And if they already include time does that mean the data is already there before it's written, or can be unwritten in the past so that it was never written? Sounds dodgy for long-term archives!
Look_it_up. Educate yourself. That's what the Internet is for.

Machine life will be able to read and rewrite anything that we have recorded or will ever record.
MikeBowler
1 / 5 (5) Jul 12, 2013
5D? I know about x,y,z and time - what's the fifth D? And if they already include time does that mean the data is already there before it's written, or can be unwritten in the past so that it was never written? Sounds dodgy for long-term archives!

pretty sure its 5 physical dimensions so yeh x, y, z, and lets call the other 2 v and w, time is not 1 of the physical dimensions it is a temporal dimension
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (6) Jul 13, 2013
Guys. Read the friggin article. It says right there what the five dimensions are:
The information encoding is realised in five dimensions: the size and orientation in addition to the three dimensional position of these nanostructures.

5 dimensions:
1) x
2) y
3) z
4) size
5) orientation

A dimension is anyhing that can be varied independently of the others (mathematicaly speaking: is orthogonal to the others). Learn some science and skip more Star Trek reruns.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Jul 13, 2013
I really don't think it is a good idea to reinforce bad behavior and laziness just to show off and get upvotes do you AA? Learning how to answer your own questions is a valuable skill no?

Of course you do have to ask them first. Like 'I wonder how tsunamis work?' 'I wonder where I got the idea that radiation was such a bad thing?' 'I wonderwhy I hate the US so much when it is obviously trying to save my ass from evil and also preserve civilization?' That sort of thing.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (6) Jul 13, 2013
I really don't think it is a good idea to reinforce bad behavior and laziness just to show off and get upvotes do you AA?

Erm...who cares about showing off or upvotes? Those are the most unimportant things in life.

But it would be nice that if people make an effort to comment on an article that they at least read it first. Otherwise physorg can just skip posting articles and turn this into facebook.
MikeBowler
1 / 5 (6) Jul 13, 2013
Guys. Read the friggin article. It says right there what the five dimensions are:
The information encoding is realised in five dimensions: the size and orientation in addition to the three dimensional position of these nanostructures.

i did read the article, i do not accept rotation as a dimension, in reality this Optical Memory Glass is really 3D but with weird structures which due to the 3D fad with TVs and Cinema they just had to slap an N-dimensional name on it
MikeBowler
1 / 5 (6) Jul 13, 2013
I really don't think it is a good idea to reinforce bad behavior and laziness just to show off and get upvotes do you AA?

Erm...who cares about showing off or upvotes? Those are the most unimportant things in life.

But it would be nice that if people make an effort to comment on an article that they at least read it first. Otherwise physorg can just skip posting articles and turn this into facebook.

in case you didn't notice i was trying to fray the idea of time being a physical dimension, time has nothing to do with the structure of an object
antialias_physorg
3.6 / 5 (5) Jul 13, 2013
i do not accept rotation as a dimension

It's nice that you make up your own definition of words. But for some reason scientists define a dimension not in the Hollywood way - and when it comes to science scientists use that definition.

The glass is 5D because you can (and must) move along 5 different axes in phase space (measure 5 INDEPENDENT qunatities) to access one bit of data.

E.g. this is why we call 3D three dimensional, because you need 3 coordinates (three independent quantities) to access any point within it...and 4 dimensional spacetime because you need four coordinates to define a point within it. (and e.g. an m-dimensional M-brane system when talking about brane theory - which has not much to do with spatial dimensions at all)

It's a rather straightforward/simple system. Dimensions can be more than mere spatial dimensions.
Laars__
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 13, 2013
Love the 5-axis recording shelf life. Hate the 5D claim. There are multi-axis lathes, and this appears to use the same mechanical sophistication of reading, but there are no actual claims of storing information in hyperspace, Get real, Phys.org.

Cheerzo,
Laarso
alaberdy
3 / 5 (2) Jul 13, 2013
That's a lot of porn.

All the porn in existence, with room left over.

Oh, c'mon. That's definitely not a lot of porn. It's even less than 100 times bigger that I have on my network. And I'm almost out of free space already. And I'm sure I have much less than one percent of all porn (and most of it not even in HD format).
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 13, 2013
Love the 5-axis recording shelf life. Hate the 5D claim. There are multi-axis lathes, and this appears to use the same mechanical sophistication of reading, but there are no actual claims of storing information in hyperspace, Get real, Phys.org.

Cheerzo,
Laarso
@laary

This is not something physorg made up. It's an industry standard in use for many years. Can you say 'duh'?
semmsterr
not rated yet Jul 14, 2013
Ferroelectric densities of .2 to .5 Petabits = 200 to 500 Terabits sq. in. / 40 Petabits = 40,000 to 100 Petabits = 100,000 Terabits cu.cm. or 200,000 to 500,000 Gigabits sq.in. / 40,000,000 to 100,000,000 Gigabits cu.cm. with symmetrical read / write times of < 10 picoseconds for 100 year non-volatile storage having infinite re-writes.

Normally the 1.3 to 5 nanometer molecule can switch at < 10 picoseconds while maintaining non-destructive readout of ferroelectric bistable properties at a 5 nanometer cell size.

This is not the end by any means as Tohoku says their target is 4 Petabits a sq. in or 375,000 Terabits cu. cm. using a .4 nanometer cell size.

Then when you go to 3D optical at 10 to 100 layers or more and the
storage capacity can hold all of mankinds data from the beginning of
time to the end of time.


SICK!!!!
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Jul 14, 2013
I would just like to record absolutely everything I sense in realtime from birth to death for instant recall. Is this too much to ask?
Laars__
3 / 5 (2) Jul 14, 2013
Love the 5-axis recording shelf life. Hate the 5D claim. There are multi-axis lathes, and this appears to use the same mechanical sophistication of reading, but there are no actual claims of storing information in hyperspace, Get real, Phys.org.

Cheerzo,
Laarso
@laary

This is not something physorg made up. It's an industry standard in use for many years. Can you say 'duh'?


It's wrongly used and Physorg passed it on just like some gas from a swampy crevice. The word they are looking for from the industry is: axis - not dimension. But 5D sounds kewler. It's also wronger.... Now people in the industry who mis-speak are free to say the D word, for Duh. But they should first say the D word, for D'oh!

- Laarso
MikeBowler
1 / 5 (3) Jul 14, 2013
i do not accept rotation as a dimension

It's nice that you make up your own definition of words. But for some reason scientists define a dimension not in the Hollywood way - and when it comes to science scientists use that definition...
--had to cut some to make my post--
....It's a rather straightforward/simple system. Dimensions can be more than mere spatial dimensions.

you think i take movie pseudo-science seriously?? lets be clear on this, this 5D we're all talking is mathematical in basis not scientific, the reason i don't regard rotation as physical dimension in which we move around is because as you said 3 co-ordinates is enough, rotation is actually a vector transformation, tell me a good place to read up on this wiki as start does not support your conclusion http://en.wikiped...mensions
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Jul 14, 2013
the reason i don't regard rotation as physical dimension in which we move around

Good, because nowhere in the article is there a claim that they MOVE AROUND in 5 physical directions - you (falsely) added that part in your own head.

They have a 5D recording/reading scheme. 5 independent settings needed to read or write. That's 5D. No more. No less.

The articles on physorg are extracts from papers from scientists for scientists. If you want to understand them you have to learn the language of scientists (at least a very little) - because they shure as hell aren't going to start dumbing things down for you when scientifically uneducated people aren't the target group of these articles.

Anyone with a smidgeon of education in a technical field knows full well what a dimension in such a paper refers to. And that is NOT just physical dimensions.

Context. You have to learn to take things in context its written in - not in the context you want it to be in.
MikeBowler
1 / 5 (4) Jul 14, 2013
i know what context is, just because rotation matters doesn't make it a dimension, its confusing to learn that rotation is a transformation and then be told no its a dimension, i am utterly convinced that saying that rotation is a dimension is a way of dumbing it down

i in no way said there are 5 physical directions, don't put words in my mouth, there are 3 axes of rotation and 3 dimensions of distance, no more, no less, i am not arguing whether there are 5 parameters or not, don't just try and fill your post with junk to try to confuse me and don't try and argue my academic achievements when clearly me asking for reading references from you clearly shows i have none above high school level
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Jul 14, 2013
it's wrongly used
Sorry laary you're wrong and you don't know near enough to know it.

LOOK IT UP. Educate yourself or stay stupid.
I in no way said blah
More embarrassing dimwittery. LOOK IT UP or continue to look stoopid.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Jul 14, 2013
Oh and I fixed your 'i' for you.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Jul 14, 2013
Perhaps you einsteins do not know that words can have more than one meaning? Here's one for you

rel·a·tiv·i·ty  (rl-tv-t)
n.
1. The quality or state of being relative.
2. A state of dependence in which the existence or significance of one entity is solely dependent on that of another.
3. Physics
a. Special relativity.
b. General relativity.

-See? The first 2 aren't even scientific. Do you think einstein just borrowed the word, maybe to dum it down for the ignorant masses?
MikeBowler
1 / 5 (1) Jul 15, 2013
Oh and I fixed your 'i' for you.

i use a lower case "i" because i think its easier to read than "I" which in this font looks like a lower case "L"

Perhaps you einsteins do not know that words can have more than one meaning? Here's one for you

rel·a·tiv·i·ty  (rl-tv-t)
n.
1. The quality or state of being relative.
2. A state of dependence in which the existence or significance of one entity is solely dependent on that of another.
3. Physics
a. Special relativity.
b. General relativity.

-See? The first 2 aren't even scientific. Do you think einstein just borrowed the word, maybe to dum it down for the ignorant masses?

Some words, not all, have different meanings based on context, yes i know. Oh and it's dumb not "dum".
MikeBowler
1 / 5 (1) Jul 15, 2013
I in no way said blah
More embarrassing dimwittery. LOOK IT UP or continue to look stoopid.


Look what up? Dimensions? Oh look, look:

...... not support your conclusion http://en.wikiped...mensions

i did!!
slash
4 / 5 (1) Jul 16, 2013
For those not getting the idea of using "orientation" (not rotation!) as an additional dimension for recording data, get yourself a hologram, and look at it. Then turn it around a bit (change the orientation), and watch the "data" change!

A hologram stores a three-dimensional scene in a two-dimensional image by "translating" the 3D information into the two dimensions of an image, plus orientation.

Ok, strictly speaking that's an oversimplification, but I hope some of you will now get the picture.
slash
1 / 5 (2) Jul 16, 2013
I am not impressed by the capacity of this device, 360 TB is a lot less than the NSA servers need. And in 10 years, they'll need a thousand times as much.

I *am* impressed by the longevity though. The only problem I see with this, is document format: individual aspects of document formats are known to change on a yearly or even monthly basis. A document printed out today will look different than the same printed out after applying a couple of patches, in a year or two. Even Microsoft isn't capable to reproduce the exact look of all Word document created with earlier versions of their own product: there will always be subtle changes.
Monalisa777
not rated yet Jul 20, 2013
This is not new ! This "news" reports actually a theft. This "5D optical memory in glass" is a Romanian technology, invented by DR. EUGEN PAVEL in 1998!
Dr. Eugen Pavel is a romanian Professor of Physics. Since 1998 he has won numerous awards for this invention, including the Eureka gold medal - 1999, the World Press Award Periodicals, Kent Premium Lights Annual Awards for Innovation and the gold medal at the Salon of Inventions in Geneva 2004.
sennekuyl
not rated yet Jul 22, 2013
I am not impressed by the capacity of this device, 360 TB is a lot less than the NSA servers need. And in 10 years, they'll need a thousand times as much.

I *am* impressed by the longevity though. The only problem I see with this, is document format: individual aspects of document formats are known to change on a yearly or even monthly basis. A document printed out today will look different than the same printed out after applying a couple of patches, in a year or two. Even Microsoft isn't capable to reproduce the exact look of all Word document created with earlier versions of their own product: there will always be subtle changes.

What are you talking about? 360TB per disk is huge, compared to a disk today. That is assuming they are referring to compariable archive quality disks such as CD. If referring to platters in a 5.25 drive today, the drives would be between 1/2 - 1 petabyte. A data center of these would be exabytes, maybe even approaching zettabytes.
sennekuyl
not rated yet Jul 22, 2013
I want to know how many nanoseconds it took to write that 300kb file and how long it shall take to read.

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