5D Disks Can Save Your Data for Eternity

How long can you store your data on a disk? A month, a year, maybe more than that. There’s no chance that your data will last till eternity due to things known as “disk rot” or “data rot.” However, the good news is a new technology of eternal data storage is on its way as researchers at University of Southampton’s optical research center have developed a method that can record data in 5 dimensions and keep it safe for billions of years. Using femtosecond laser bursts, the technique etches data into a thermally stable disk.

The method opens an era of eternal data archiving with 360TB/disk data capacity, able to resist temperatures up to 1,000°C and has a virtually unlimited lifetime (13.8 billion years) at room temperature (190°C).

Using a ultrafast laser, the documents were recorded, generating immensely short and intense pulses of light. Each file is written in three layers of nanoscale dots separated by five micrometers. The self-assembled dots modify the polarization of light travelling through the disk that can then be read by combination of optical microscope and a polarizer.

Back in 2013, when the researchers originally demonstrated the technology, they could only fit a 300kb test file onto a disk. In these three years, they have perfected the recording technique since their first demonstration and have since saved major documents from human history such as Kings James Bible, Magna Carta, Newton’s Optics and Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Not only that, ORC presented a copy of 5D encoded UDHR to UNESCO at The International Year of Light (IYL) closing ceremony in Mexico.


“It is thrilling to think that we have created the technology to preserve documents and information and store it in space for future generations. This technology can secure the last evidence of our civilisation: all we’ve learnt will not be forgotten,” says Professor Peter Kazansky, from the ORC.

The team will present their research paper at The International Society for Optical Engineering Conference in San Francisco, USA on Wednesday, 17 February. Also, they are looking for partners for further development and to commercialize this technology.

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