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Hitachi develops "incorruptible" glass-based data storage technique

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September 26, 2012

Hitachi's prototype quartz glass memory device (Photo: AFP/Yoshikazu TSUNO)

Hitachi's prototype quartz glass memory device (Photo: AFP/Yoshikazu TSUNO)

Back when compact discs were first coming out, they were touted as being able to store data “forever.” As it turns out, given no more than a decade or so, they can and do degrade. According to an AFP report, Hitachi has unveiled a system that really may allow data to last forever – or at least, for several hundred million years. It involves forming microscopic dots within a piece of quartz glass, those dots serving as binary code.

The idea is that eons after the dots are applied to the glass, a person (or whatever’s around then) should be able to easily read them using nothing more than an optical microscope – no medium-specific device, such as a CD player, will be necessary. Hopefully, the concept of binary code will still be understood.

The current prototype measures two centimeters (0.8 inches) square by two millimeters thick, and incorporates four layers of dots. It currently has a memory capacity of 40 megabytes per square inch, which is roughly equivalent to that of a music CD. The researchers believe, however, that adding more layers to boost its capacity should be doable.

The glass square has withstood exposure to high-temperature flames along with various harsh chemicals, and survived being heated to 1,000º C (1,832º F) for two hours. Not surprisingly, it is also unaffected by radio waves or immersion in water. Of course, glass is breakable, although quartz is known for being particularly hard.

According to Hitachi, the technology may see its first practical use in storing information for government agencies, museums or religious organizations.

This is not the first time that glass has been experimentally used for super-long-term data storage. Scientists from the University of Southampton have been working with monolithic glass space-variant polarization converters, that are read using a laser.

Source: AFP via PhysOrg

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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11 Comments

Hopefully this technology will be developed to accommodate larger volumes of data perhaps on bigger bits of glass. Imagine try to sort through a pocket full of 2cm square x 2mm thick bits of glass to find the files you need!

Also of course, one must ask how or perhaps whether the stored files could be altered (e.g. files updates) or deleted. Would the government actually want its secrets to be permanent and indelibly stored anywhere?

Meanwhile one must wish the researchers good luck in developing this technology into a usable product. Their end goal is laudable and new solutions are needed.

Alien
26th September, 2012 @ 07:57 pm PDT

Does breakage count as corruptibility?

Rt1583
26th September, 2012 @ 11:55 pm PDT

The data density is nice but how about simply making glass or ceramic CD-ROMs.

Pikeman
27th September, 2012 @ 01:31 am PDT

Funny how the article claims this might first be used by religious organizations. When historians of religion look at the evolution of a religion's texts and dogma it invariably becomes clear that texts and dogma changed dramatically, sometimes erratically.

It can hardly be in the interest of a religion to create an "incorruptible" track record. Leaving the past in the past makes it much easier to claim the present interpretation is the "eternal truth".

moreover
27th September, 2012 @ 10:20 am PDT

Yeah, I was just reading some stuff about the Bible, and it said that it wasn't even begun to be written until at least 57 years after Jesus had died!! So yes, there's LOTS of room to modify this and that, edit here and there like the Bible has been over the centuries. ALL religious works seem to have been corrupted or "borrowed" from other earlier works, like the Egyptian Book of the Dead for instance or the Vedic Hymns.

Randy

Expanded Viewpoint
27th September, 2012 @ 12:23 pm PDT

I worked on a Burroughs D825 mainframe computer when I was a pup. It had some very fast memory which used a glass substrate with magnetic 'spots' deposited on it. It took only one pulse to read and one pulse to write data. Very fast. I believe it was called thin film memory. It was used as a scratch pad.

d

Dennis Learned
27th September, 2012 @ 02:46 pm PDT

Utilize Gorilla Glass, mix in some holographic movie recording magic... VIOLA! Instant Minority Report holo-movie storage/recording/playback.

kalqlate
27th September, 2012 @ 04:00 pm PDT

I'm sure that the porn industry will lead the way, as it always does, and utilize this in the marketplace.

poker-pauly
27th September, 2012 @ 10:53 pm PDT

Microscopic formations in glass-like structures used for data storage? Almost like the crystal lattices in Holocrons... man, are we headed into a very advanced future quickly. Can't wait until everything's as advanced as Star Wars :D

Lord Revan
1st October, 2012 @ 05:50 am PDT

CD's have a storage density of over 100MB/sq in, not roughly equal to 40MB/sq in. Could be considered same order of magnitude, though.

Gerry Lavell
20th November, 2012 @ 09:28 pm PST

My mistake. Data density on a 650MB CD is ~50MB/sq in. Still warrants correction.

milliard
6th February, 2013 @ 08:59 pm PST
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