Could physical data make a comeback in an increasingly cloud-dependent world? Researchers at the University of Southampton in the UK have made a breakthrough with a new type of data storage that combines incredible storage density with long-term archival capacity, a report of New Atlas Explain.
The team of scientists was able to store 500 terabytes of data on a single CD-sized drive, or 500,000 gigabytes. They say their new technology could be used to store data from entire libraries as well as data from a person’s DNA.
The University of Southampton team has been working on the technology, known as five-dimensional (5) D optical storage, for several years, after first unveiling it to the world in 2013 as a text file of 300 kb. The technology uses a femtosecond laser – which emits short, powerful bursts of light – to write data in tiny nanoscale structures on glass. Since 2013, scientists have demonstrated the scalability of 5D storage by saving digital copies of documents such as the King James Bible and Magna Carta.
Reduce our dependence on the cloud
Scientists are using their new storage method to meet the growing demand for long-term storage solutions in our increasingly digital world. “Individuals and organizations are generating increasingly large data sets, creating a desperate need for more efficient forms of data storage with high capacity, low power consumption and long lifespan,” says Yuhao Lei of the University of Southampton in A press release. “Although cloud-based systems are designed more for temporary data, we believe 5D data storage in glass could be useful for longer-term data storage for national archives, museums, libraries. or private organizations. “
The team’s latest development is called near-field enhancement. This allows them to create the nanostructures with weaker light pulses, which means data is being written at a faster rate of 1,000,000 voxels, or 230 KB, per second. “This new approach improves the speed of writing data to a practical level, so that we can write tens of gigabytes of data in a reasonable amount of time,” says Lei. “The highly localized precision nanostructures allow for higher data capacity because more voxels can be written in a unit volume. Additionally, the use of pulsed light reduces the energy required to write.”
Researchers demonstrated near-field improvement by writing 5 GB of text data onto a CD-sized disc made of silica glass. They say the drive is capable of holding 500TB of data in total. In the future, new technology from the University of Southampton could help physical data storage make a comeback, as large amounts of data can, in practice, be stored on small glass disks with the additional benefit that users will not lose their data if and when servers are down.