It’s estimated that humans are producing the equivalent of 10 million Blu-ray discs’ worth of data every single day – and all of those ones and zeroes have to be stored somewhere.
Researchers in the UK believe they have the solution: a five-dimensional digital data disc that can store 360 terabytes of data for some 13.8 billion years.
To create the data disc, researchers from the University of Southampton used a process called femtosecond laser writing, which creates small discs of glass using an ultrafast laser that generates short and intense pulses of light. These pulses can write data in three layers of nanostructured dots separated by 5 micrometers (that’s 0.005 mm).
So where do the five dimensions come from?
First there’s the three-dimensional position of each dot within the layers, and then the extra dimensions are the size and orientation of the dot. The nanostructures created by the technology can be read using an optical microscope in tandem with a polariser (a filter designed to block specific polarisations of light).
The storage medium has been dubbed the “Superman memory crystal” in honor of the memory crystals from the Superman films. Not only can it store insane amounts of data, but it can withstand temperatures up to 1,000°C (1,832°F).