It is estimated that the equivalent of 10 million Blu-ray disks worth of data is produced by humans every day – and all those and zeroes must be stored somewhere. Now UK researchers might just have the solution: a five-dimensional (5D) digital data disk that can store about 13.8 billion years of 360 terabytes of data.

Researchers at Southampton University used a process called femtosecond laser writing to create the data disk, which creates small glass disks using an ultrafast laser that generates short and intense light pulses. These pulses can write data separated by 5 micrometers (that’s 0.005 mm) in three layers of nanostructured dots.

So where are the five dimensions? First, there is each dot’s three-dimensional position within the layers, and then the extra dimensions are the dot’s size and orientation. In tandem with a polarizer (a filter designed to block specific light polarizations), the nanostructures created by the technology can be read using an optical microscope.

The team behind the new 5D disks says these disks could be most useful for institutions dealing with large archives: libraries, museums, and extensive records are kept anywhere else (like a data center on Facebook).

“It’s exciting to think we’ve created the technology to preserve and store documents and information for future generations in space,” said one of the researchers, Peter Kazansky. “This technology can secure our civilization’s last evidence: we won’t forget everything we’ve learned.”

The researchers are presenting their work at this week’s International Society for Optical Engineering Conference in San Francisco, and then hoping to find industry specialists to partner with in order to further develop the technology, finally reaching a stage where it can be used in commercial products.

In honor of the memory crystals from the Superman movies, the storage medium was dubbed the ‘ Superman memory crystal. ‘ It can not only store crazy amounts of data, but it can also withstand temperatures of up to 1,000 ° C (1,832 ° F).

While the technology was first demonstrated in 2013, it is now able to store much more data: copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Newton’s Opticks, The Magna Carta, and The King James Bible have already been saved on these small discs by the team.


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