A lot of digital archival is done on DVDs manufactured specifically for archival purposes, something that could be changing in the near future. Researchers at the University of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Center, as well as the Eindhoven’s University of Technology, joined forces to create a glass disc that can hold 360TB of data for over 1 million years.
Not only that, but the glass disc is also able to handle temperatures up to 1,832 Fahrenheit, helping safeguard against data loss in the case of a fire, for example. Such a technology breakthrough was achieved using a specific glass-like material created from nanostructures and fused quartz. The data, then, is written to this medium using a femtosecond laser.
The laser works by “shooting” rapid pulses of light onto the glass disc, being able to apply the data in the form of “nanostructured dots” in three layer forms that are spaced a mere 5-micrometers apart from each other. Because nanostructures are involved, the laser likewise works in five dimensions when writing the data, something comprised of 3D positioning, orientation, and size.
In its test run, the researchers who developed the new technology were able to write – and subsequently read – 300KB worth of data on the disc. Its storage capacity is much higher, however, with a recorded 360TB worth of space for archiving information. Once written, the discs can then be stored for a million years or longer, withstanding temperature variations and outliving quite a few generations (or the entirely of civilization).
Said Professor Peter Kazandky of the ORC, “It is thrilling to think that we have created the first document [to] likely survive the human race. This technology can secure the last evidence of civilization: all we’ve learnt will not be forgotten.” The next step? The team is working at commercializing the technology.