Small Glass Disc Could Store Massive Amount of Data “For Eternity”


Researchers say they could put the text of every book every written onto a single glass disc that will outlive the human race. But hopefully they’ll find some more practical uses.

The University of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Centre believe the disks could be a way of archiving large collections of data in a theoretically permanent way.

Their technique is dubbed 5D data and involves using a laser to write the data on the fused quartz disc. That writing changes the polarization of light travelling through the glass, which in turn lets the data be read through an optical microscope and a polarizer (which hopefully survived the apocalypse and come with instruction manuals readable by future life forms…)

The 5D refers to the fact that as well as the laser creating a two-dimensional image on the disc that’s visible to the human eye, the data is stored in three layers of “nanostructured dots”, each five millionths of a meter apart. The remaining two dimensions are the size and orientation of the dots.

According to the researchers, each disc can store 360 terabytes of data. IFL Science calculated that at an average of two megabytes per eBook, that would be enough for all books ever written (estimated at 130 million by Google Books) with room to spare.

The researchers also say the discs could survive brief exposure to temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees Celsius without affecting the data. They also believe that they could effectively survive permanently at room temperature, which rather worryingly they define as up to 190 degrees Celsius.

The technology has already been used to create copies of major documents including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Magna Carta.