Optical Data Storage Keeps 360TB Of Data Around Forever

quartz digital storage

The inability to securely and confidently store large amounts of data without fear of corruption or damage to the storage vessel has long been a struggle for hardware developers for decades. Now that may be over.

The new combination of nanostructured quartz and laser light has produced the first permanent digital storage device in the history of man. A team at Southampton University used femtosecond laser pulses to write data in the 3D structure of quartz at the nanoscale. The pulse creates three separate levels of nanostructured dots, each just five micros above the other. With another pulse of light through the sample, a computer can record its polarisation — the orientation of the waves — after it’s passed through.

The team at Southampton has already translated various major works onto small glass discs, including the Magna Carta, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Newton’s Opticks and the King James Bible. Due to the density of data on the glass and quartz disc, up to 360 terabytes can be stored on a single piece, with a stability so pronounced that the team believe the data couple endure for up to 13.8 billion years at temperatures up to 177 degrees celsius. Needless to say, this might be the solution to everyone’s storeage struggles.

The idea of using quartz as a storage vessel isn’t new, but the challenge up to this point has been being able to store the data at a greater density. In 2012, similar techniques were used for the first time to store 40 megabytes per square inch, which is roughly the same density as a music CD. Needless to say, new developments in the technology far exceeds that, and archiving mass quantities of information in perpetuity is a reality.