New 5D Data Storage technology could last billions of years

The storing and preservation of digital data has been a cumbersome process due to the varying lifespans of physical hard drives. Scientists at the University of Southampton though may be on the brink of developing a way to store data for billions of years.

The University's Optoelectronics Research Centre has found a way to use nanostrctured glass to develop a process for recording and retrieving five dimensional (5D) digital data by femtosecond laser writing.

5D data storage is unlike any form of data storage we have seen before. It allows for up to a 360 TB to disc data capacity, thermal stability up to 1,000 degrees Celsius and can last virtually forever with the researchers current estimate at 13.8 billion years if kept at room temperature.

This new form of data storage is safe, stable and portable making it an ideal way for large institutions to store their archives. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Newton's Opticks, the Magna Carta and the King James Bible have already been recorded for posterity using 5D technology.

Recording data in 5D requires the use of an ultrafast laser to create short and intense pulses of light. The files are then written in three layers of nanostructured dots which are five micrometers apart. To read the data, an optical microscope and a polariser need to be combined.

The researchers at the University of Southampton are preparing to present all of their research on 5D data storage at the International Society for Optical Engineering in San Francisco where they will present their paper '5D Data Storage by Ultrafast Laser Writing in Glass.'

While mainstream application of 5D data storage technology may be years away, the researchers are currently seeking industry partners to further develop and commercialise this new form of storage.

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