5D optical data storage
|Computer memory types|
|Early stage NVRAM|
5D optical data storage (sometimes known as Superman memory crystal) is a nanostructured glass for permanently recording digital data[a] using femtosecond laser writing process. The memory crystal is capable of storing up to 360 terabytes worth of data for billions of years. The concept was experimentally demonstrated in 2013. Hitachi and Microsoft have researched and developed 5D optical storage techniques.
The concept is the bulk storing of data optically in non-photosensitive transparent materials such as fused quartz, which is renowned for its high chemical stability and resistance. Writing into it using a femtosecond-laser was first proposed and demonstrated in 1996. The storage media consists of fused quartz where the spatial dimensions, intensity, polarization, and wavelength is used to modulate data. By introducing gold or silver nanoparticles embedded in the material, their plasmonic properties can be exploited.
Up to 18 layers have been tested using optimized parameters with a light pulse energy of 0.2 microjoules (5.6×10−14 kWh), a duration of 600 fs, and a repetition rate of 500 kHz. Assuming a 100% efficient laser, that is one watt-hour (3.6 kJ) of energy consumption for a maximum 0.5 Mbits of data storage. For 1000 Mbits of storage that adds up to two kilowatt-hours (7.2 MJ). Testing the durability using accelerated aging measurements shows that the decay time of the nanogratings is 3×1020±1 years at room temperature—30 °C (86 °F). At an elevated temperature of 189 °C (372 °F), the extrapolated decay time is comparable to the age of the Universe (13.8×109 years). By recording data with a numerical aperture objective of 1.4 NA and a wavelength of 250–350 nanometres (9.8×10−6–1.38×10−5 in), a capacity of 360 terabytes can be achieved.
The format has a novel method of storing data called "5-dimensional". This is more for marketing purposes since the device has 3 physical dimensions and no exotic higher dimensional properties. The fractal/holographic nature of its data storage is also purely 3-dimensional. According to the University of Southampton:
The 5-dimensional discs [have] tiny patterns printed on 3 layers within the discs. Depending on the angle they are viewed from, these patterns can look completely different. This may sound like science fiction, but it's basically a really fancy optical illusion. In this case, the 5 dimensions inside of the discs are the size and orientation in relation to the 3-dimensional position of the nanostructures. The concept of being 5-dimensional means that one disc has several different images depending on the angle that one views it from, and the magnification of the microscope used to view it. Basically, each disc has multiple layers of micro and macro level images.
It can be read with a combination of an optical microscope and a polarizer.
The technique was first demonstrated in 2010 by Kazuyuki Hirao's laboratory at the Kyoto University. Further, the technology was developed by Peter Kazansky's research group at the Optoelectronics Research Centre, University of Southampton.
Since 2018 the technology is in production use by the Arch Mission Foundation. Its first and second discs were given to Elon Musk: one disc is in his personal library, and the other was placed aboard the Tesla Roadster in space.
GitHub, a subsidiary of Microsoft, plans to use this technology to archive all public Git repositories. Microsoft refers to this technology as Project Silica with a claimed lifetime of over 10,000 years.
- The five dimensions consist of the size, orientation and the three-dimensional position of the nanostructures.
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