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posted by martyb on Thursday February 18 2016, @10:53AM   Printer-friendly
from the what-if-the-readers-are-only-good-for-ONE-billion-years? dept.

Researchers at the UK's Southampton University have created a storage scheme that could supposedly store hundreds of terabytes for billions of years:

Researchers, led by Martynas Beresna, in the university's Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) have built five-dimensional photonic structures in nano-structured fuzed quartz glass with femtosecond pulses of light; meaning one quadrillionth (one millionth of one billionth) of a second. Data is written in three layers of nano-structured dots, voxels, separated by five micrometres (one millionth of a metre).

A voxel is an optical vortex, a polarisation vortex using nano-gratings, and a paper by the researchers, "Radially polarized optical vortex converter created by femtosecond laser nanostructuring of glass" (pdf), explains how they: "...demonstrate a polarization vortex converter, which produces radially or azimuthally polarized visible vortices from a circularly polarized beam, using femtosecond laser imprinting of space-variant self-assembled form birefringence in silica glass."

When the femtolaser pulse hits the glass it causes polarisation vortices to be created which change the way light passes through the glass, modifying its polarisation. This polarisation can be detected using a combined optical microscope and polariser. The dimensions of the three-layered nano-structured dot voxel are length, width, depth, size and orientation.

We're told an optical disk, using this technology, could hold 360TB of data for 13.8 billion years at 190°C, meaning a virtually unlimited lifetime at room temperature. [...] Altechna, a Lithuanian laser optics company, is working on commercialising the technology.

This story is a bit of a throwback since the researchers originally published these claims back in 2013. However they are presenting their results under the title "Eternal 5D data storage by ultrafast laser writing in glass" on February 17, 2016 at the SPIE Photonics West 2016 conference in San Francisco.

5D Data Storage by Ultrafast Laser Nanostructuring in Glass


Original Submission

Related Stories

Microsoft Stores 75.6 GB on Glass Disc Designed to Last Thousands of Years 60 comments

Why Microsoft and Warner Bros. Archived the Original 'Superman' Movie on a Futuristic Glass Disc

Microsoft has teamed up with Warner Bros. to store a copy of the 1978 movie "Superman" on a small glass disc about the size of a coaster. The collaboration, which will be officially unveiled at Microsoft's Ignite 2019 conference in Orlando, Florida Monday, is a first test case for a new storage technology that could eventually help safeguard Hollywood's movies and TV shows, as well as many other forms of data, for centuries to come.

"Glass has a very, very long lifetime," said Microsoft Research principal researcher Ant Rowstron in a recent conversation with Variety. "Thousands of years."

[Image] The piece of silica glass storing the 1978 "Superman" movie, measuring 7.5 cm x 7.5 cm x 2 mm. The glass contains 75.6 GB of data plus error redundancy codes.

Microsoft began to investigate glass as a storage medium in 2016 in partnership with the University of Southampton Optoelectonics Research Centre. The goal of these efforts, dubbed "Project Silica," is to find a new storage medium optimized for what industry insiders like to call cold data — the type of data you likely won't need to access for months, years, or even decades. It's data that doesn't need to sit on a server, ready to be used 24/7, but that is kept in a vault, away from anything that could corrupt it.

This is not the Superman memory crystal we need.

Also at The Verge.

Related: "5D" Laser-Based Polarization Vortex Storage Could Hold Hundreds of Terabytes for Billions of Years


Original Submission

Researchers Store 5 Gigabytes Using "5D" Optical Data Storage, Claim Up to 500 Terabytes Possible 12 comments

High-Speed Laser Writing Method Could Pack 500 Terabytes of Data into CD-Sized Glass Disc

Researchers have developed a fast and energy-efficient laser-writing method for producing high-density nanostructures in silica glass. These tiny structures can be used for long-term five-dimensional (5D) optical data storage that is more than 10,000 times denser than Blue-Ray optical disc storage technology.

[...] In Optica, Optica Publishing Group's journal for high-impact research, [Yuhao] Lei and colleagues describe their new method for writing data that encompasses two optical dimensions plus three spatial dimensions. The new approach can write at speeds of 1,000,000 voxels per second, which is equivalent to recording about 230 kilobytes of data (more than 100 pages of text) per second.

[...] The researchers used their new method to write 5 gigabytes of text data onto a silica glass disc about the size of a conventional compact disc with nearly 100% readout accuracy. Each voxel contained four bits of information, and every two voxels corresponded to a text character. With the writing density available from the method, the disc would be able to hold 500 terabytes of data. With upgrades to the system that allow parallel writing, the researchers say it should be feasible to write this amount of data in about 60 days.

5 GB / 230 KB/s = ~6 hours
500 TB / 230 KB/s = ~69 years
500 TB / 60 days = ~96.45 MB/s

Funding for the research was provided by the European Research Council (ENIGMA, 789116) and Microsoft (Project Silica).

Also at Guru3D and PetaPixel.

High speed ultrafast laser anisotropic nanostructuring by energy deposition control via near-field enhancement (open, DOI: 10.1364/OPTICA.433765) (DX)

Previously: "5D" Laser-Based Polarization Vortex Storage Could Hold Hundreds of Terabytes for Billions of Years (same university, Peter G. Kazansky on both research teams)
Microsoft Stores 75.6 GB on Glass Disc Designed to Last Thousands of Years


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by maxwell demon on Thursday February 18 2016, @11:01AM

    by maxwell demon (1608) on Thursday February 18 2016, @11:01AM (#306273) Journal

    That's all nice, but how long will the reading mechanism survive? I mean, intact stored data is useless if you cannot read it any more. I mean, if I give you a perfectly readable 5.25" floppy disk, how many of you will still be able to read it? What about an 8" disk?

    --
    The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 18 2016, @11:05AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 18 2016, @11:05AM (#306274)

      For a lot of people a 3½" disk is already going to be a challenge.

    • (Score: 2) by q.kontinuum on Thursday February 18 2016, @11:44AM

      by q.kontinuum (532) on Thursday February 18 2016, @11:44AM (#306280) Journal

      Probably this will be a problem, but I'm certain for really important data it would be possible to rebuild a 8'' disk drive. It's "only" a matter of money, the specifications should still be available somewhere. I usually do copy by data every couple of years to be on the safe side. Was thinking about pushing an encrypted archive to some cloud service as well, but didn't go through with it yet.

      --
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    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 18 2016, @11:45AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 18 2016, @11:45AM (#306282)

      ok, so put the design of the reader in paper form next to the data cube.
      every 200 years, make a reader, read the specs of the reader from the data cube, print out a new copy to replace the old one.
      yes, you need to take care how you store that paper, but apparently you can let the kids play with the cube.

      • (Score: 2) by q.kontinuum on Thursday February 18 2016, @11:58AM

        by q.kontinuum (532) on Thursday February 18 2016, @11:58AM (#306283) Journal

        tfa just mentioned temperature resistance, not general stability. It is still possible that the material is brittle or just soft.

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        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 18 2016, @12:52PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 18 2016, @12:52PM (#306300)

          I just meant that as a joke.
          in any case, temperature resistance is probably mentioned for the benefit of those who have put vinil in hot attics at some point in their lives...

  • (Score: 2) by inertnet on Thursday February 18 2016, @12:18PM

    by inertnet (4071) on Thursday February 18 2016, @12:18PM (#306290) Journal

    I can't imagine any information that will still be relevant in a billion years.

    Also tectonic movement will cause most of the current surface of our planet to have vanished by that time, including any storage media.

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by GreatAuntAnesthesia on Thursday February 18 2016, @12:39PM

      by GreatAuntAnesthesia (3275) on Thursday February 18 2016, @12:39PM (#306299) Journal

      > I can't imagine any information that will still be relevant in a billion years.

      Well, we have whole disciplines of science devoted to learning about what was going on a billion years ago. If humanity or some descendant thereof is still around and intelligent in a billion years (and I don't think that's at all impossible) then I think that any and all billion-year old information would be very interesting and valuable.

      > Also tectonic movement will cause most of the current surface of our planet to have vanished by that time, including any storage media.
      Which is why you put your billion-year time capsules on the surface of moon, or in orbit of Jupiter (preferably encased in a 1X4X9 smooth black obelisk). Such resilient data storage could also be useful for that unmanned probe to Proxima Centauri.

    • (Score: 2) by Bot on Thursday February 18 2016, @02:52PM

      by Bot (3902) on Thursday February 18 2016, @02:52PM (#306335) Journal

      > I can't imagine any information that will still be relevant in a billion years.
      Not relevant but puzzling, basically anything.
      Whatever you save now is information that will be domesticated and rewritten, starting mere months after it was news.
      Proof: now Bill Gates is a philantropist and Steve Jobs a CS genius.

      If you want to subvert future history, save a linux distro that actually works (hint: anything pre-systemd).

      --
      Account abandoned.
    • (Score: 3, Funny) by The Archon V2.0 on Thursday February 18 2016, @05:26PM

      by The Archon V2.0 (3887) on Thursday February 18 2016, @05:26PM (#306422)

      > Also tectonic movement will cause most of the current surface of our planet to have vanished by that time, including any storage media.

      Well, since the new earth has to come up from below, the old earth is higher and therefore uphill. So what we do is steal a shopping cart and then put the media in the cart! Whenever new land shows up nearby, it'll roll downhill!

      There, I just saved the sum total knowledge of the entire known universe and am not even asking for credit. In fact, if Wal-Mart wants their cart back I'll tell them it was your idea.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Unixnut on Thursday February 18 2016, @02:06PM

    by Unixnut (5779) on Thursday February 18 2016, @02:06PM (#306320)

    I mean, what if this technology is feasible, and some past civilisations had used it for storing out so much data about themselves, only for the next not-so-evolved life form to carve up their "shiny rocks" into ornaments, or just end up melting or smashing them up, thinking there was nothing of interest in a piece of glass.

    Only when you realise it is possible to store data in something like a piece of glass, do you consider whether past pieces of glass, long since discovered and possibly recycled, held data in a similar format, unknown to us.

    • (Score: 2) by arslan on Friday February 19 2016, @05:25AM

      by arslan (3462) on Friday February 19 2016, @05:25AM (#306731)

      Yea.. and they probably stored the schematics for the device to read said storage in it as well... oh wait...

      • (Score: 2) by Unixnut on Friday February 19 2016, @10:41AM

        by Unixnut (5779) on Friday February 19 2016, @10:41AM (#306801)

        Once you work out that you can store data in glass, you can look at other glass for similar patterns, even if you don't have the original schematics for what wrote it. You just have to wait for the new life form to reach a certain technological level.

        I mean, I don't have the schematics for a vinyl player, but could probably build a machine to read the data off it. It might not look anything like the original vinyl player, but it would work (would probably use high resolution cameras, and reconstruct digitally).

        If some archaeologist came up to me with a plate with what looks like grooves on it, at our current tech level we could analyse it, and discover said grooves have patterns in them, and then work on a machine to extract the patterns. Even if you can never decipher what is on it, the fact that a past civilisation was able to do this is in itself interesting.

        Rest assured though, that like the decades of effort people put into hieroglyphs to decipher them, people would do the same with whatever else we find. Human nature is like that when dealt a curiosity.

  • (Score: 2) by gnuman on Thursday February 18 2016, @07:06PM

    by gnuman (5013) on Thursday February 18 2016, @07:06PM (#306483)

    We're told an optical disk, using this technology, could hold 360TB of data for 13.8 billion years at 190°C

    Right. Let's try to keep it at more modest 13.9 years first, without the billion. Then we can work at the 13.9 thousand years, which is almost longer than all human recorded history barring a few cave drawings.

    The problem with 13.8 billion years storage is that it is completely irrelevant for human civilization to state these numbers.

    • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Thursday February 18 2016, @07:19PM

      by maxwell demon (1608) on Thursday February 18 2016, @07:19PM (#306495) Journal

      13.8 billion years is the estimated age of the universe. However I'm pretty sure the big bang was hotter than 190°C. ;-)

      --
      The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
    • (Score: 2) by mendax on Thursday February 18 2016, @09:00PM

      by mendax (2840) on Thursday February 18 2016, @09:00PM (#306548)

      The problem with 13.8 billion years storage is that it is completely irrelevant for human civilization to state these numbers.

      Agreed. I think what the authors are trying to say is that the technology will allow the storage of information beyond the end of human civilization, beyond the time the roaches evolve into intelligent life and build their own civilization (if they haven't already), beyond the lifetime of the earth!

      It would be nice to have a way to store information so that we can avoid another situation like the destruction of the Library of Alexandria or the sacking of Constantinople, where so much ancient information is lost forever. Now if only they can figure out a way to build a reader that will last more than a few years!

      --
      It's really quite a simple choice: Life, Death, or Los Angeles.
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Absolutely.Geek on Thursday February 18 2016, @10:11PM

    by Absolutely.Geek (5328) on Thursday February 18 2016, @10:11PM (#306587)

    But how big is the read / write device; can I get a desktop version?

    What is the I/O rate?

    And most importantly; when can I buy this magical tech?

    --
    Don't trust the police or the government - Shihad: My mind's sedate.
  • (Score: 2) by darkfeline on Friday February 19 2016, @01:44AM

    by darkfeline (1030) on Friday February 19 2016, @01:44AM (#306680) Homepage

    Since this is glass, and I doubt they'll be using very thick glass, I imagine this will handle bumps and drops even worse than HDDs.

    Can someone with more knowledge about polarisation vortices tell me if this is rewritable?

    --
    Join the SDF Public Access UNIX System today!
  • (Score: 2) by legont on Friday February 19 2016, @06:22AM

    by legont (4179) on Friday February 19 2016, @06:22AM (#306749)

    They are desperate. Check out this help wanted. Trying to outsource to Russia, a country they say is about to invade them, a "State Security Department" project.

    City
    St. Petersburg

    The Company implemented the following projects:

            Lithuanian passport ICs;
            IP to the central bank of Lithuania;
            EC for the Ministry of Defence of Lithuania.

    Project:

    Strategic project on IP development for the Lithuanian State Security Department. Details of the project, the company is ready to talk to the interview.

    https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=ru&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fhh.ru%2Fvacancy%2F15885502%3Fquery%3DLithuania [google.com]
    Pretty good add though - remote work; Python, C, Perl

    --
    "Wealth is the relentless enemy of understanding" - John Kenneth Galbraith.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 19 2016, @06:25AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 19 2016, @06:25AM (#306751)
    So I wonder what would happen if you looked at one of the crystal skulls [wikipedia.org] with this technology. Even if you find nothing I'd want one in such a shape just for the lulz.
    • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Friday February 19 2016, @10:04AM

      by maxwell demon (1608) on Friday February 19 2016, @10:04AM (#306794) Journal

      Interesting idea. I guess making a piece of art from the material is a good way to reduce the probability of someone destroying it. I mean, if you find some piece of glass and don't know that there's a lot of information stored in it, you'll see nothing wrong with just melting it for making new stuff of the material. But as a piece of art, there's at least a chance that you preserve it for its art value.

      --
      The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 19 2016, @08:56AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 19 2016, @08:56AM (#306778)

    A voxel is an optical vortex

    No, a Voxel is a volumetric pixel. A pixel is a picture element. I've done voxel imaging in the medical field. It's a 3D pixel... A pixel with volume. You don't get to change the name we've been using for decades. What you're talking about is a Hoxel. Holographic Pixel. Holograms have the property of representing N-dimensional data in a N-x dimensional space. Like representing 5D data in 3D material, or 3D images in 2D holographic film, or drawing 2D images on a spool of single dimensional thread, etc. However, the Hoxel sounds too much like Hoaxel, and "voxel" is a buzz word in 3D graphics (mostly used incorrectly). Most people mean volumetric space partitioning when they say "voxel" in graphics. Like in Minecraft: it's not a voxel engine. A Voxels doesn't have different "sides" so you wouldn't have panes of glass in Minecraft if it was really a voxel engine.

    Volumetric data is typically represented as cubes, or point clouds, but can be packed spheres or triangular particles (my favorite, cheapest to render, and can "link" up if you alternate their orientation -- Just apply a normal vector that's the average of the aproximate bounding surface, and unless you zoom in real close you won't be able to tell the 3D MRI image is actually being drawn with triangular pixels, Trixels... (No Phil Fish, your "trixel" engine isn't using trixels, those are orthogonally rendered uniformly partitioned spaces, like a cube map, with a quad-tree collision detection system that ignores the current Z (in out) direction).

    Each volumetric unit would be the same uniform value at a given resolution in a voxel -- Pixels don't have "edges", Voxels don't have "sides". Each Voxel is a uniform volume at a regular fixed interval of resolution, like a pixel... Not a "vortex". Holographic storage might only be considered a voxel if you're a higher dimensional being, but the key word here is holographic rather than volumetric.