|Hitachi, in partnership with Kyoto University's Kiyotaka Miura is developing “semiperpetual” slivers of quartz glass that the company says can preserve information for hundreds of millions of years with virtually no degradation.|
Everyone who has gone through the process of upgrading their computer system knows the inevitable task of transferring data involves a certain amount of acceptance that some data will forever be lost. Saved on storage devices without drives to retrieve the files, or by the deterioration of the storage substrate, data becomes lost.
Even Ray Kurzweil mentions in The Singularity Is Near, how he resorts to paper printouts to save his most important data for the long term.
Now, Japanese storage and electronics company Hitachi has announced that it has come up with a solution that stores data on slivers of quartz glass, keeping important data safe and sound for perhaps as long as hundreds of millions of years.
The company's main research lab has developed a way to etch digital patterns into robust quartz glass with a laser at a data density that is better than compact discs, then read it using an optical microscope. The data is etched at four different layers in the glass using different focal points of the laser.
"Initially this will be aimed at companies that have large amounts of important data to preserve, rather than individuals," said Tomiko Kinoshita, a spokeswoman at Hitachi's main research lab.
“If both readers and writers can be produced at a reasonable price, this has the potential to greatly change archival storage systems,” said Ethan Miller, UC Santa Cruz's Director for the Center for Research in Intelligent Storage in an interview with Scientific American.
Kyoto University's Kiyotaka Miura has developed the “semiperpetual” pieces of quartz glass for Hitachi, beginning with a square just two centimeters in width and a scant two millimeters thick.
The prototype, described in a research paper, is made of a square of quartz two centimeters wide and two millimeters thick. It houses four layers of dots that are created with a femtosecond laser, which produces extremely short pulses of light. The dots represent information in binary form, a standard that should be comprehensible even in the distant future and can be read with a basic optical microscope. Because the layers are embedded, surface erosion would not affect them.
The medium has a storage density slightly better than that of a CD-ROM. Additional layers could be added, which would increase the density. But the medium is more remarkable for its durability. It is waterproof and resistant to chemicals and weathering, and it was undamaged when exposed to 1,000-degree heat for two hours in a test. The results of that experiment led Hitachi to conclude that the quartz data could last hundreds of eons.
Given the incredibly lengthy amount of time the data would stay protected from the elements, it's assured that the military, government, museums and other long-term historical research organizations would want to pursue archiving and storing our most important pieces of knowledge on them, once made available and eminently usable.
SOURCE Scientific American
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