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New tech uses silicon glass for data storage

By

August 19, 2011

Monolithic glass space-variant polarization converters, such as this one, are able to stor...

Monolithic glass space-variant polarization converters, such as this one, are able to store data in silicon glass

Recently we heard about the M-DISC, which can reportedly store data in a rock-like medium for up to 1,000 years. Now, scientists from the University of Southampton have announced the development of a new type of nanostructured glass technology. Not only might it have applications in fields such as microscopy, but it apparently also has the ability to optically store data forever.

The research team, led by Prof. Peter Kazansky, has created what are known as monolithic glass space-variant polarization converters. When imprinted on silicon glass, these converters are able to alter the polarization of ultra-short pulses of laser light passing through them. These pulses proceed to imprint tiny dots called "voxels," which are sort of like 3D pixels, into the glass.

When that glass is then "read" by a laser, the voxels produce tiny whirlpools of light, the properties of which have already been determined by the polarity of the laser pulse that created each voxel. These differing voxel whirlpools represent individual bits of data, like light pulses in fiber optic cables. They can be written, wiped and rewritten into the molecular structure of the glass, and will reportedly never degrade.

The converters could apparently also be used for optical manipulation of atom-sized objects, inexpensive ultra-high resolution microscopic imaging, and possibly even table-top particle accelerators.

The University of Southampton is now working with Lithuanian company Altechna, to commercialize the technology.

A paper on the research was published in the journal Applied Physics Letters.

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
9 Comments

I believe that Nostradamus predicted this technology becoming real.

Apparently we will discover hidden messages in the rock formations around our planet, there are allegedly ancient holograms stored within.

Michael Simpson
20th August, 2011 @ 01:23 am PDT

Fascinating...so how MUCH data can be stored on the tiny disc shown in your picture? If the capacity is good, this could indeed be quiet revolutionary. Fortunately most of us can get by without a table top particle accelerator!

Alien
20th August, 2011 @ 05:34 am PDT

Hmmm when faced with backing up terror-bites of data from hard drives - say pick a nice unfriendly number of ummm say 3 TB, when faced with CD's - forget it; DVD's - your going to need a LOT and it will take forever; and the Blew Raze - what a scam in terms of $$$ per disk pricing - and the number of disks needed.

The 50G disks sell for $40 each.... x 3TB = about 60 disks or $2400 - for what fits on ONE $300 hard drive - so Blew Raze disks are just bullshit

Plus disks either degrade, grow mould, or become scratched - unless kept in the dark, in a laboratory clean room and are handled with white gloves.

I'd like to see these glass storage plates? brought onto the market for $10 a terror bite or less - with a $50 read writer.

Forget the new tech high pricing - they ought to be sold at every man and their dog has one pricing - from the outset.

Blue Raze and those who brought that out - did so in a way that just gouged every one, so it was too little, too late, for too much - and most people don't even consider BR a back up solution, when HDD's are so much bigger, cheaper and a more straight forward and time / cost effective solution.

Mr Stiffy
21st August, 2011 @ 07:01 pm PDT

Forever? i thought glass was not even really a solid but a liquid that changes shape over a long period of time, so how would that affect its long term storage ability?. maybe nano structure glass behaves differently.

Denis Klanac
22nd August, 2011 @ 12:29 am PDT

I hope they develop the disk with a protective cover. I have been frustrated with the ease of scratching CD's, DVD's, even old vinyl albums. The 3.5 inch floppy disk and the VHS tapes came in a protective case so it was difficult to scratch the surface. They seemed to be hardier and more durable with the protective case.

Todd
22nd August, 2011 @ 05:59 am PDT

@Mr. Stiffy I agree. I would love to see it hit the market soon. We could save data just like they do on Star trek, where one glass slide holds Terra-flops of data :D.They didn't say anything about production models or anything like that... Just proving the tech works.

@Denis Since it is data stored at the atomic level, these will last as long as it is protected from environmental erosion, just like rocks, indefinitely. Like, for the foreseeable future... thousands of years. And yes, technically glass is a liquid that is solid at certain temps and liquid at others, gas at others, and plasma at highest temps. (Same as every element). So it will last as long as you don't, say, hurl it into volcanic lava or launch it into the sun.... or drop it. ;)

Jay Lloyd
22nd August, 2011 @ 11:58 am PDT

Also, @Todd I would think that you can scratch it all day long and it wouldn't affect the readability at all, since it goes through the disc to the polarity of the atoms. It isn't reflective-based like CDs, DVDs and Blu-Rays are. As long as you don't shatter it, you should be ok.

Jay Lloyd
22nd August, 2011 @ 12:11 pm PDT

I know this has greater implications, but I'm just thinking about gaming.

Danie Clawson
22nd August, 2011 @ 02:46 pm PDT

If this is true then maybe this technology was captured from the crystal skulls that IBM researched. If thats the case then there is a possibility that we will be able to one day view stored information from the skulls if they really do house information. Very interesting. Im surprised Im the first to piece these two links together. I guess people are less apt to believing in the possibilities of odd ideas like the world is round LOL.

afitternewyou
22nd August, 2011 @ 11:32 pm PDT
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