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The “Superman Memory Crystal”

Scientists from the university of Southampton have made a major stride in the field of digital data storage which is capable of not only storing an unprecedented amount of data but that is also capable of surviving up-to a billion years. Using nano-structured glass, scientists from the University’s Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) have developed the recording and retrieval processes of five dimensional (5D)* digital data by femtosecond laser writing.

The crystal’s remarkable properties include 360 TB/disc capacity, thermal stability up to 1000 Degrees Celsius and a virtually unlimited life span at room temperature (13.8 billion years at 190C). This could open up a new era of eternal data archiving. This technology’s usefulness could impact various fields such as national archives, museums and libraries for the preservation of information and records as a means of safe, stable data storage.

The technology was first experimentally demonstrated in 2013 when a 300 kb digital copy of a text file was successfully recorded in 5D. Now, major documents from human history such as Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Newton’s Opticks, Magna Carta and Kings James’ Bible, have been saved as digital copies that could survive the human race. A copy of the UDHR encoded to 5D data storage was recently presented to UNESCO by the ORC at the International Year of Light (IYL) closing ceremony in Mexico. ( 2016)

The technology, now dubbed “The Superman Memory Crystal” takes its name from the “memory crystals” found in the Superman Films. The crystal records files by using an ultra fast laser, producing short and intense bursts of light. The files are then written in three layers on nano-structured dots which are separated by 5 micrometres (one millionth of a metre).

According to the release earlier this year, These nano-structures are self-assembled in fused quartz and change the way light travels through glass which in turn modifies the polarisation of light. This can be read by combining an optical microscope and a polariser, similar to polaroid sunglasses.The information encoding is realised in five dimensions: the size and orientation in addition to the three dimensional position of these nano-structures. ( 2016)

Although there has been no word yet on the commercial viability of the technology, the team has presented their discovery at the the International Society for Optical Engineering Conference in San Francisco in February with high hopes of finding industry partners to help further develop and commercialise this remarkable technological break-through.

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