5D Optical Data Storage – 45000000 MB data on tiny glass!

We, human loves, storing our memories, our achievements, our history, and everything that we think our upcoming generation should know about us. The problem comes when memories get diluted, ink fades, photographs burn, and the hard drive breaks. All of our achievements can just vanish in the thin air, but no more. Scientists at the University of Southampton have come up with something that can help the records of our achievements to remain even after Human existence, they call it 5D Optical Data Storage.

What is 5D Optical Data Storage?

Back in 1996, the scientists introduced an idea of storing data in a transparent material by using superfast leasers. After 17 years, this idea with a revolutionary approach of Optical Storage proves it’s potential to throw dust on every existing storage methods and devices.

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Unlike CDs and DVDs, it does not rely on physical reflective bumpy lines imprinted on a plastic. 5D Optical data storage uses dots, tightly compressed on multiple layers inside the fused silica. Each dot is consisting of a series of gratings or pits to store data. This is achieved by a highly refined laser. The laser emits short and intense pulses of light that etch the gratings into the glass. There are 3 layers of dots installed at only five micrometers apart in each disk.

The current size of the 5D optical Data storage disks are 25mm, that’s barely an inch in diameter, but it is claimed that it has the capacity to store data equal to the other disks of several meters in size.

The researchers believe that the silica disk can hold the data as much as 360TB, for almost 13.7 billion years. It can hold on in the temperatures as high as 190 degree Celsius. Even a direct impact of almost half a ton cannot distort them. The optical storage drives that we use today are not even a percentage of them. A CD or a DVD can store 700mb and 8gb around of data respectively. A Blu-ray disk, that is the latest in the technology can store data that might be on a slightly higher side of 25gb. The data in them or they themselves can not live more than 100 years max in the most comfortable conditions.

How does the 5D Data Storage work?

On CDs and DVDs, the data is read by throwing a laser on the tiny bumpy lines imprinted on the external physical surface. Every time the laser hits a bump, it reflects back, and when there is no bump it doesn’t reflect back. The reflecting back of the laser is recorded as a 1 and 0 in case of no reflection, representing the 2 dimensions, that are either On and Off. CDs and DVDs can store anything, an image, music, a thesis, or a software. But the lines being on the outer physical surface of their body are vulnerable. Scratch them or just open them to a non-suitable atmosphere, they will lose all your data.

In case of these 5D optical data storage devices, the data is stored inside their outer physical layers made of Fused Silica. Fused Silica is one of the purest glass available. It’s perfect as it has the precision required to write and read data in 5D because it does not consist of any other ingredients. The data inside them is stored on the tiny physical dots called “Nanogratings”. They too reflect the light to read the data, but unlike CDs, they do so in 5dimensions. The reflected lights from the Nanogratings shows the information they are containing by reading their orientation, the strength of reflected light, and its location on x, y, z-axis. These 3 additional dimensions provide these disks the potential to store so much of data so densely.

Other than the fused silica, the concept of femtosecond laser writing is also an essential part of it. It’s an extremely super fast and very precise method of performing the etching process on the multiple layers of glass. The laser generates light pulses for very short periods, that short time period is measured in femtoseconds.

Why the Optical data storage disks are so stable?

Recall those chemistry practical, those so unstable science experiments that we used to do in our school labs, those glasses survived every one of them. Glass is a chemically stable material and is tough also, it needs a lot of heat to melt. Researchers claim that the optical disks can live up-to 1000 degree Celsius.

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What’s their future?

The expenses of the leaser and the still required technological advancements may make its possibilities seem a little far future kind of thing. But the researchers believe that it’s not far from being in your homes. The imprinting of data may be an expensive process, but it can be read it easily.

Patel, from the team of Southampton, who are developing the technology says. “The concept and the development of it are ready to go,”. “It’s a matter of developing the technology so we can then make it readily available for commercial purposes”. Introducing a new medium has never been easy, keeping the competition in mind, but these certainly seem the thing of the future.

To present the practicality of the technology, the Southampton team have created the optical disks with the copies of King James Bible, Isaac Newton’s study of Optics, and also the United nations latest Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Now all the stored documents can live up-to thrice the age of our Earth.

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What are your thoughts on the 5D Optical Data Storage drives?

What do you think? Would you wish to store your favorite moments for your generations to see them? How much this technology is going to change the world? Do you see the 5D optical data storage as a potential technology to replace our existing storage devices? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.


Author: – Saharsh W. S. Rathore

Categories: Sci / Tech

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