Home / News / PC Component News / Humanity's ultimate backup – 5D discs can store data for 13.8 billion years

Humanity's ultimate backup – 5D discs can store data for 13.8 billion years

by

5D disc

A new storage medium has been devised that can hold hundreds of terabytes of information for billions of years.

The question of how we preserve precious information for future generations is a persistent concern. Every digital format we use now has a surprisingly short lifespan in the grand scheme of things.

Scientists at the University of Southampton appear to have made a breakthrough with that very issue. They've devised a small, clear disc made of nanostructured glass that can hold five-dimensional digital data.

This 5D glass disc technology was first demonstrated back in 2013, but the process has now been perfected.

Rather than storing data on the surface of a fragile disc, such as DVDs, 5D discs store them within the chemically stable glass format. As well as being more resilient, this also means that light can be reflected back off the suspended data in more than the regular two dimensions: "the size and orientation in addition to the three-dimensional position of these nanostructures," as the related post explains.

The resulting properties of this femtosecond laser-written 5D disc format are quite remarkable. Each coin-sized disc can hold up to 360TB of data, and it can retain that data for up to 13.8 billion years at temperatures of up to 190°C. Drop the conditions to a steady room temperature, and you're talking a "virtually unlimited lifetime."

Needless to say, this 5D disc format has potential applications well beyond keeping your music library backed up.

"As a very stable and safe form of portable memory," the University explains, "the technology could be highly useful for organisations with big archives – such as national archives, museums and libraries – to preserve their information and records."

Related: Best Blu-ray player 2016

We're talking all of human history, essentially. Important documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Newton's Opticks, Magna Carta and the King James Bible have already been preserved in this way.

However, the team at the University of Southampton is also looking to commercialise the product, so don't rule out future 5D disc boxset marathons.

aeonturnip

February 17, 2016, 12:33 pm

Very impressive, but calling it 5D is pure marketing garbage - size and orientation are still part of the standard 3 dimensions. Might as well call it a Turbo iCrystal 3000.

toboev

February 17, 2016, 5:40 pm

It might be marketing, but it isn't garbage. To say that size and orientation are part of our 3D reality misses the point. Size and orientation, along with the 3 spatial dimensions, are distinct variables that can code information.
I just want to know, what happens if you are holding "all of human history" in a glass billet, and you drop it?

aeonturnip

February 17, 2016, 9:18 pm

I get the point but people bandy about terms like "dimensions" because it sounds cool, but it's misleading. As a father of inquiring minds I'd much rather these things were described correctly. I expect no better from cinemas with their 5D movies (because a moving chair and a spray of water are clearly extra dimensions on top of the "3D" movie...) But this is a from University, and a physics department at that. Anyway, grumpy old man rant over :)

MICHGO

February 20, 2016, 4:13 am

AND IN 14 BILLION YEARS IT'S OBSOLETE, NO THANKS.

comments powered by Disqus