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