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  (Source: Warner Bros.)
Bye bye Blu-ray? Glass based discs written with femtosecond lasers could blow away current optical media

Jingyu Zhang, a UK professor at the Univ. of Southampton's Optoelectronics Research Centre, is not satisfied with today's optical media that maxes out at 128 gigabytes (GB) for "BDXL" Blu-Ray multi-layer discs.  With the help of collaborators at the Netherland's Eindhoven University of Technology, he's cooking up new "Superman crystal" discs, which could one day hold 360 terabytes (TB) per disc.

Prof. Zhang describes, "We are developing a very stable and safe form of portable memory using glass, which could be highly useful for organisations with big archives. At the moment companies have to back up their archives every five to ten years because hard-drive memory has a relatively short lifespan.  Museums who want to preserve information or places like the national archives where they have huge numbers of documents, would really benefit."

Much like the fictional device Superman's scientist birth father Jor-el used to store memories of Kryptonian culture for his son, the new storage media is composed of crystals that can store data for over a million years.  The crystal disc can even survive intense temperatures of up to 1000 °C.  The data is stored in trillions of tiny fused quartz crystals -- also known as nanostructured glass.

Superman fortress of solitude
Memory crystals in Superman's "Fortress of Solitude" [Image Source: Warner Bros.]

The silicon-based storage layer uses a femtosecond laser to created "5D" (five dimensional) storage that writes data with five impendent variables -- crystal position in 3D coordinates (x, y, z), the size of the crystal, and the orientation.  The five variables change the polarization of light, which is then read by a combination of a microscope and polarizer (a device commonly found in Polaroid sunglasses).

Currently, the researchers have only recorded a 300 KB file as a tech demonstration, which used three layers of nanocrystalline dots (with a 5 µm spacer separating dots).

ORC Prof. Zhang ORC layered write
Prof. Jingyu Zhang (left) and his new crystal storage technology. [Image Source: ORC]

Significant technological hurdles must be overcome to productize the technology -- most notably advancing femtosecond laser and microscopy technology to the point where the entire reader/writer can be incorporated into a compact, mass-producible package.

The research -- sponsored by the European Union's Femtoprint project -- was presented [PDF]  as a conference paper at the Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics (CLEO’13) in San Jose.

Prof. Peter Kazansky, the ORC’s dean, comments, "It is thrilling to think that we have created the first document which will likely survive the human race. This technology can secure the last evidence of civilisation: all we've learnt will not be forgotten."

Sources: Univ. of Southampton ORC, CLEO'13 [Paper]

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HAL 9000
By WinstonSmith on 7/10/2013 10:21:44 AM , Rating: 5
"Much like the fictional device Superman's scientist birth father Jor-el used to store memories of Kryptonian culture for his son"

No, much more like the rectangular glass memory modules shown being ejected when HAL 9000 was deactivated in "2001: A Space Odyssey," the future tech projections being supplied by movie consultant IBM, IBM being the letters directly after HAL, and standing for "Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer."

RE: HAL 9000
By kleinma on 7/10/2013 10:48:13 AM , Rating: 2
Although it is often conjectured that the name HAL was based on a one-letter shift from the name IBM, this has been denied by both Clarke and 2001 director Stanley Kubrick

RE: HAL 9000
By Mitch101 on 7/10/2013 11:56:48 AM , Rating: 5
True we all know IBM stands for "I Blame Microsoft"

RE: HAL 9000
By Monkey's Uncle on 7/10/2013 1:13:08 PM , Rating: 2
IBM stands for a lot of things -- 80% of them pretty rude ;)

RE: HAL 9000
By Souka on 7/10/2013 7:54:42 PM , Rating: 3
I seem to recall IBM having a holographic storage crystal years (10?) ago with massive storage

problems were cost of writers, readers, and speed.... but hey, it was "possible" years and years ago.


RE: HAL 9000
By delphinus100 on 7/10/2013 6:34:29 PM , Rating: 2
All I know is that HAL was born on my 43rd birthday...

RE: HAL 9000
By Hairyfeet on 7/11/2013 4:49:56 PM , Rating: 2
Actually he may have denied it but if you'll look up "2001 IBM freeze frame" you'll see he did actually put IBM in the movie when Dave was interacting with HAL, he just put it in so quick most folks would never catch it so it was his own little in joke.

RE: HAL 9000
By dgingerich on 7/10/2013 11:42:29 AM , Rating: 2
I'd say it would be closer to the isolinear chips in the computer on Star Trek the Next Generation. Compact transparent modules that would fit into a reader.

They even store data in 'quads' rather than bits, which might invoke the idea of 4 bits per data location, making it even more dense data storage.

RE: HAL 9000
By GTVic on 7/10/2013 4:20:56 PM , Rating: 2
Except all technology in the Star Trek universe is vulnerable to the omnipresent threat of frequency re-modulation (otherwise known as an implausible plot device).

RE: HAL 9000
By cokbun on 7/11/2013 2:47:04 AM , Rating: 3
imagine all the porn you can store on that disk..

RE: HAL 9000
By umusasu on 7/12/2013 7:19:04 PM , Rating: 2
Actually this is a Romanian technology invented by DR. EUGEN PAVEL in 1998!
Dr. Eugen Pavel is romanian Professor of Physics. Since 1998 he has won numerous awards for this invention, including the Eureka gold medal - 1999, the World Press Award Periodicals, Kent Premium Lights Annual Awards for Innovation and the gold medal at the Salon of Inventions in Geneva 2004.

Holographic Memory
By drlumen on 7/10/2013 1:54:00 PM , Rating: 4
Every few years (since the early 80's and probably longer) there have been promises of ungodly amounts of storage on holographic memory cubes/crystals or some other 3d storage medium.

I will believe it when I see it.

RE: Holographic Memory
By sheh on 7/10/2013 2:02:14 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know if the 80s, but definitely in the last 5-10 days. News of upcoming discs of 100s of GBs to 1TB and beyond, but nothing commercial yet.

I'd be happy if they exploited current technology first: standardize BDXL single layer, for a minor but welcome +7GB increase to BD-R.

RE: Holographic Memory
By sheh on 7/10/2013 2:03:06 PM , Rating: 2
*years :)

RE: Holographic Memory
By FITCamaro on 7/10/2013 3:17:19 PM , Rating: 3
Well since the 80s we've gone from storage mediums maxing out in the hundreds of megabytes to discs that store 1000s of gigabytes. I'd say that's a pretty good leap.

In 1993 my family got its first computer which had a 720MB hard drive. Now we have affordable 4TB drives. So lets say the max hard drive size was around 1GB back then. That would mean in 20 years we've had a nearly 4000% increase in maximum storage space for a single drive.

RE: Holographic Memory
By FITCamaro on 7/10/2013 3:24:21 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry that would be 400,000%.

Also we've gone from CDs that stored only 700MB to now standard 50GB BD discs (yes there are the 100GB ones but they're not really standard). A 7100% increase.

RE: Holographic Memory
By sheh on 7/10/2013 7:39:15 PM , Rating: 2
BD-R DL is too expensive. Single layer is still the most practical thing. So we have only x40 offline storage size increase since CD-R was introduced about 20 years ago.

CDs were a big jump from floppies. Everything afterwards not so much. I think the best way to look at it is optical media vs HDDs. When CD-R was new a few CDs were enough to backup an entire large HDD. When DVD-R was new you needed tens of discs. BD-R improved the HDD/optical ratio some because HDD size increase started slowing down.

RE: Holographic Memory
By Devilboy1313 on 7/14/2013 8:47:41 PM , Rating: 2
Actually your 1 order of magnitude over. My 1st HD was 10MB, since the 20MB one was more than a month's rent more. And that was early-mid 80s.

It's plausible that for the same price we've gone from 10 MB to 10 TB + (over 3+ drives) in 30 years.

RE: Holographic Memory
By dodjer42 on 7/10/2013 10:34:25 PM , Rating: 3
Agree completely.

And what about the title of the article: "Scientists Create 360 TB Superman Crystal Discs", yet in the first paragraph: "....which could one day hold 360 terabytes (TB) per disc."

So, in fact, scientists have not created a 360 TB disc.

RE: Holographic Memory
By Reclaimer77 on 7/11/2013 1:54:13 AM , Rating: 2
Yup, this is yet another breakthrough that will never translate into an actual tangible product available to the consumers.

Remember Nuclear Holographic Storage disks? That was the next big thing....that nobody ever owned.

By Iketh on 7/10/2013 10:47:59 AM , Rating: 3
Should we be analyzing crystals for evidence of data written millions of years ago?

RE: Then...
By elleehswon on 7/10/2013 11:01:21 AM , Rating: 2
funny, i was thinking the same thing.

RE: Then...
By Motoman on 7/10/2013 11:32:26 AM , Rating: 2
Um, no.

The archaeological record is pretty clear...there was no one around on Earth that could have been recording data a million years ago.

Now, if we happen to see a crystal rod floating towards us in space, sure...go grab that and see if it has a birthday card recorded on it from the Vorlons.

RE: Then...
By drlumen on 7/10/2013 1:56:15 PM , Rating: 2
Not if you believe the scientologists. The lizards from space probably had some similar tech.

RE: Then...
By Silver2k7 on 7/10/2013 6:32:55 PM , Rating: 2
Really space lizards, have they been talking to David Icke ?? :)

RE: Then...
By Devilboy1313 on 7/14/2013 8:53:21 PM , Rating: 2
Well they did elect the space pope.

RE: Then...
By cokbun on 7/11/2013 2:51:01 AM , Rating: 2
wait till you see those dinosaur porns

RE: Then...
By delphinus100 on 7/10/2013 6:36:30 PM , Rating: 2
'Dr. Freud, sometimes a crystal is just a crystal...'

By Motoman on 7/10/2013 10:16:28 AM , Rating: 5
"It is thrilling to think that we have created the first document which will likely survive the human race. This technology can secure the last evidence of civilisation: all we've learnt will not be forgotten."

And what will future explorers find on these disks, long after mankind has gone to dust?

All our porn.

RE: bom-chika-wa-wa
By Mitch101 on 7/10/2013 11:58:40 AM , Rating: 4
And what will future explorers find on these disks , long after mankind has gone to dust?

Thankyou for using plural form.

RE: bom-chika-wa-wa
By zhivaji on 7/10/2013 3:40:30 PM , Rating: 2
I was just wondering comments on p0rn..

for some reason, storage always connects to p0rn..
The same goes to internet bandwidth..

1000 year discs are here now
By 1prophet on 7/10/2013 12:38:43 PM , Rating: 2
Until they perfect this one can use m-disc rated for 1000 years,
for long term archival purposes in either DVD or blu-ray format.

RE: 1000 year discs are here now
By sheh on 7/10/2013 1:59:59 PM , Rating: 2
Is there any indication these claims are more than PR blurb?

I wouldn't mind media that's more durable long term, but I don't know if there's anything behind MDisc's claims. An MDisc DVD-R review I read showed higher PIE/PIF than, say, Verbatim discs. But the real question is the long term stability.

RE: 1000 year discs are here now
By 1prophet on 7/10/2013 7:40:30 PM , Rating: 2
RE: 1000 year discs are here now
By sheh on 7/11/2013 12:39:08 PM , Rating: 2
There's a collaboration with Ritek, which could be a good sign. Might also help with availability.

That Shutterbug article is very non-techy: "Checking the files recorded on the M-Disc against the originals, I could not find any differences in the content."

It's been a few years by now. What I'd like to see is actual error levels tested over time. Then again, even standard good quality discs don't show much degradation after just a few years. Anyway, worth a try.

By Devilboy1313 on 7/14/2013 9:13:24 PM , Rating: 2
What I wonder is if we'll have the tech to read any of these things. Not in 1000 years but even 50.

I have some 8" DEC disks, 5 1/4 single sided and a box of 2.88MB 3 1/2 (yes I was one of the 6 people who bought a computer with the 2.88 floppy drives). These are all 35 years or less. Then there is the issue of file formats if you can even get the data.

How ya gonna read it?
By Pronto on 7/10/2013 12:16:30 PM , Rating: 2
When someone finds the crystals a million years from now is there going to be a laser reader that's handy that works?

RE: How ya gonna read it?
By 3DoubleD on 7/10/2013 12:31:30 PM , Rating: 2
You would need to make a big diagram for how to build one that could last the ages... like stonehenge... ;P

RE: How ya gonna read it?
By AssBall on 7/10/2013 12:35:49 PM , Rating: 3
I'm sure our nanomachine-based hive intelligence descendants can whip one up.

The question is, will they care what is on it, or will it be like us watching amoeba porn?

Read speeds
By mattclary on 7/10/2013 12:32:55 PM , Rating: 2
And will only take a month to read or write all that data

RE: Read speeds
By geddarkstorm on 7/14/2013 6:45:31 PM , Rating: 2
Well, a femptosecond laser is 10^-15 seconds in speed, so in theory you could probably write 360 TB (360 X 10^12) in a couple seconds; if the laser pulse alone was the limiting factor that is, which it wouldn't be (repositioning it for 3D accuracy would probably take the most time next to data bandwidth from the computer).

Why make a remark against Blu-ray?
By cubby1223 on 7/10/2013 4:44:01 PM , Rating: 2
Even as Blu-ray was being first released to market I bet Sony was working on a higher-capacity technology.

There is a lot of development that goes into any product before it is ready for mass production, and when we're talking about replacing a world-wide standard for media distribution, each of these new discs would need to have a manufacturing time in seconds, cost less than a dollar per, and a failure rate less than 2%.

It's simple to take months create a super-mega-awesome product. It's dang difficult to repeat that process in high quantities and high speeds with low costs.

By Silver2k7 on 7/10/2013 6:38:25 PM , Rating: 2
there has been lots of different prototype optical discs. The problem seems to be to get them to the consumer market.

My guess is discs with lots of layers, have production problems or is just too expensive to make.
otherwhise we would probably have 400,500,600GB discs avalible by now.

Can I get some tips?
By FITCamaro on 7/10/2013 12:47:40 PM , Rating: 3
On how to create "impendent" variables? They'd always be about to happen but not quite there.

Missing Information
By 3DoubleD on 7/10/2013 12:29:50 PM , Rating: 2
There is a lot of missing information here. How big would the 360TB disc be? The size of a Blu-ray Disc I assume since it wasn't mentioned.

Secondly, how many layers would be needed to reach 360TB? 3? 5? 100? 5000?

I ask because how small could they possibly focus down their femtosecond laser? You still reach an area density limit that exists for all optical media.

Lastly, the method by which they can selectively alter multiple layers isn't very obvious either.

All that said, it is incredibly cool to think that in the near future to have technology like this.

By Belard on 7/10/2013 8:33:30 PM , Rating: 2
Just imagine...

Tens of thousands of years from now, after man is destroyed this planet. Some Alien or mutant intelligent creature will find this crystals...

And find the entire collection of internet porn.

By umusasu on 7/12/2013 7:20:00 PM , Rating: 2
Actually this is a Romanian technology invented by DR. EUGEN PAVEL in 1998!
Dr. Eugen Pavel is romanian Professor of Physics. Since 1998 he has won numerous awards for this invention, including the Eureka gold medal - 1999, the World Press Award Periodicals, Kent Premium Lights Annual Awards for Innovation and the gold medal at the Salon of Inventions in Geneva 2004.

By DougF on 7/13/2013 2:20:28 PM , Rating: 2
Now I'm going to have to buy the White Album again...

Romanian inventor
By iulian207 on 7/15/2013 5:02:57 AM , Rating: 2
A Romanian by name Eugen Pavel invented Hyper_CD-ROM with this technology in 1999 with 1.000 TB and up to teorethical 100EB. And you are saying about 360TB in 2013??

Capacity: 1 PB (with possibility of extension up to 100 EB)
Medium transfer rate: 300 Mbit/s (may be more)
Hard drive dimensions: 80 x 150 x 300 mm
Disk dimensions: 1.2 mm ø 120 mm
Temperature resistance: up to 550°C
High reliability
Maximum usage period: 5,000 years
In November 1999, the disk was presented at EUREKA "48th World exhibition of Innovation and New Technology" in Brussels.

The technology has gained recognition in 21 countries including the U.S., the EU, Canada, Japan and Israel.

There has not been any large-scale production of the Hyper CD-ROM, although several firms like IBM, Compaq, Philips and other Hollywood businesses have taken an interest in this form of data storage.

The technology was to good for the world in that moment and stayed in the box. We are not ready for that capacity of storage.

Imagine if all people had 10-20 of that disc. Who will need servers and data center storage?

This would be awesome...
By Wolfpup on 7/16/2013 10:37:46 AM , Rating: 2
Both for distributing games and movies, and for backup/storage, assuming you could get a home...uh...crystal burner. I've got dual 4TB drives now for backup, and...well, we've been stuck at 4TB for ages, they're fairly large, the data won't stay good on them forever. SSDs are even smaller/less reliable for storage, and optical discs way smaller still, and (except for M-Disc, if that really works?) super unreliable for storage...

By Ammohunt on 7/10/13, Rating: -1
“Then they pop up and say ‘Hello, surprise! Give us your money or we will shut you down!' Screw them. Seriously, screw them. You can quote me on that.” -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng referencing patent trolls

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