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“Superman” Memory Could Hold Data for a Million Years

If you are any sort of sci-fi fan, you’ve probably seen alien information technology come in the form of crystals. The idea has even been used by superheroes. While the most recent incarnation of the of the  Man of Steel preferred what amounted to nanotech, the 1978 version of Superman used crystals to record the Kryptonian database in the Fortress of Solitude.

Now, scientists at the University of Southampton have managed to create a version of crystal solid state memory right here on Earth. By recording information onto nanostructured glass through femtosecond laser writing, researchers were able to produce a “Superman” crystal that can hold 360 TB/disc data, with a thermal stability up to 1000°C, and, according to the research team, maintain the data for practically forever.

The image shows the digital data recorded into 5-D optical data storage. Courtesy of the University of Southampton

“We are developing a very stable and safe form of portable memory using glass, which could be highly useful for organizations with big archives. At the moment companies have to back up their archives every five to 10 years because hard-drive memory has a relatively short lifespan,” said lead researcher Jingyu Zhang.

Data is recorded using self-assembled nanostructures created in fused quartz. This creates a memory file in five dimensions, adding size and orientation of the data to the three dimensional position of the nanostructures. A successful experiment recorded a 300 kb text file written in three layers of nanostructured dots separated by five micrometers.

If you’re a bit too young to remember the 1978 Superman, below you’ll find a short clip about the green crystal used by Kal-El to build the Fortress of Solitude.

Source: University of Southampton

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