Talk about a backup plan to end all backup plans. Scientists at the University of Southampton are storing history’s greatest documents on an “eternal” format capable of outlasting the human race.
The technology uses a femtosecond laser, emitting pulses a quadrillionth of a second apart, to write optical data onto specialized glass discs made from fused quartz.
The end result is a five-dimensional etching in a holographic image, not unlike those souvenir glass paperweights you see at a gift shop. However, these discs are no tourist trap tchotchke as they can hold up to 360TB of data, withstand extreme temperatures, and have a shelf life of 13.8 billion years.
Copies of a few of humanity’s most notable texts have already been saved onto the nicknamed “Superman memory crystals,” such as the Magna Carta, the King James Bible, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The researchers at Southampton believe the optical format could be used by archives and libraries, compacting massive amounts of data into a durable, stable and portable state.
However, while the potential of high-capacity, nigh-indestructible storage would be a boon for consumer tech, these glass discs are not re-writable, nor is it certain how cost-effective this method would be.
Still, the scientists behind the project are hoping to team up with commercial partners to further the tech and take it mainstream. After all, there may be a market in ensuring your hard drive full of cat .JPEGs outlives you by an eon or two.
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Image credit: University of Southampton