Researchers at the University of Southampton have taken this one astonishing step further, declaring that they have created a method to record data that could last longer than the human race itself. Back in 2013, a new kind of data storing technology was introduced by the team at the university’s Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC). An abstract offered at a conference shown that a 300 kilobyte copy of a text file was documented into a specialized form of glass, a tiny “chip” that had been manipulated by a laser.
Tremendously fast and strong pulses of light changed the nanostructure of the silica glass chip, constructing extremely small “dots” that could store up to three distinct bits of information. Strings of these dots were line up in three coatings that, when aligned on top of each other, were no thicker than the width of a single human hair.
This data was said to have been stored in five dimensions (5D): the three-dimensional position of the data dot inside the glass was recorded, along with two additional dimensions delivered by the intensity and the wave pattern (polarity) of the laser used to form the dot. Researchers were then able to read the encoded text file, which in this case was the 2013 conference abstract itself.
Promoting their device ahead of the International Society for Optical Engineering Conference in San Francisco this week, the ORC team has now recorded several large documents onto their chips, including the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Isaac Newton’s Opticks, and the Magna Carta, all in 5D.
The researchers claim that each chip, several of which can fit into the palm of your hand, can store up to 360 terabytes of data. Assuming one e-book is two megabytes in size, one 5D chip would be able to store 180 million of them. Considering that around 130 million books have been written, a record of humanity’s history could actually be preserved on one single chip.
These chips would also be likely to outlast our own species: They remain stable for up to 1,000°C (1,832°F), and at temperatures of even 190°C (374°F), they would survive for 13.8 billion years. This number was probably chosen by the researchers as it also happens to be the current age of the universe.