5D data storage technology offers 10,000 times the density of Blu-ray
By deploying state-of-the-art lasers and a bit of problem-solving, scientists at the University of Southampton have achieved a breakthrough in data storage that offers both incredible density and long-term archival capabilities. The technology is said to be able to store 500 terabytes on a single CD-sized disc, with the creators imagining it would be used to preserve everything from information for museums and libraries to data on a person’s DNA .
The technology is what’s known as five-dimensional (5)D optical storage and it’s one the University of Southampton team has been pursuing for some time. It was first demonstrated in 2013, with scientists successfully using the format to save and retrieve a 300KB text file, despite harboring ambitions much loftier than that.
Data is written using a femtosecond laser, which emits incredibly short but powerful pulses of light, forging tiny glass structures that are measured at the nanoscale. These structures contain information about the intensity and polarization of the laser beam, in addition to their three spatial dimensions, which is why scientists call it 5D data storage.
In 2015, the team demonstrated their progress by using technology to save digital copies of major documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the King James Bible and the Magna Carta. Unlike typical hard drive memory which is vulnerable to high temperatures, humidity, magnetic fields and mechanical failure, this “eternal” 5D data storage promised incredible thermal stability and virtually unlimited temperature life. ambient.
However, one thing scientists have been working on is the ability to write data at fast enough speeds and high enough densities for real-world applications. They now claim to have achieved this by using an optical phenomenon called near-field enhancement, which allows them to create the nanostructures with a few weak light pulses rather than writing directly with the femtosecond laser. This allows data to be written at 1,000,000 voxels per second, which equates to 230 KB of data, or over 100 pages of text, per second.
“This new approach improves data writing speed to a practical level, so that we can write tens of gigabytes of data in a reasonable amount of time,” says Yuhao Lei from the University of Southampton in the UK. “Highly localized precision nanostructures allow for greater data capacity because more voxels can be written in a unit volume. In addition, the use of pulsed light reduces the energy required for writing.
The team demonstrated the technique by writing 5GB of text data onto a CD-sized silica glass disc with nearly 100% read accuracy, although the researchers say such a disc would be capable of holding 500TB of data, making it 10,000 times denser than a Blu-ray disc. Researchers envision the technology finding use in preserving information from someone’s DNA or for long-term data storage for national archives, museums, and more. But first, they will have to develop faster methods of reading the data.
“Individuals and organizations are generating increasingly large data sets, creating the desperate need for more efficient forms of data storage with high capacity, low power consumption and long lifespan,” says Lei. . “While cloud-based systems are designed more for temporary data, we believe that storing 5D data in glass could be useful for longer-term data storage for national archives, museums, libraries or private organizations.”
The research was published in the journal Optical.
Source: Optica via EurekAlert