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Data Storage Shark Technology IT

Nanostructured Glass Could Provide Highly Durable, Deeply Dense Data Storage (phys.org) 118

Namarrgon writes: Using nanostructured glass, scientists from the University of Southampton's Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) have developed the recording and retrieval processes of five dimensional (position, size, and orientation) digital data by femtosecond laser writing. The storage allows unprecedented properties including 360 TB/disc data capacity, thermal stability up to 1,000ÂC and virtually unlimited lifetime at room temperature (13.8 billion years at 190ÂC) opening a new era of eternal data archiving.
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Nanostructured Glass Could Provide Highly Durable, Deeply Dense Data Storage

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  • by Chmarr ( 18662 ) on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @01:16AM (#51517091)

    190AC! That's .... either very warm, or reasonly high voltage. Now if there were only a character set that could help us distinguish an A from a degree circle symbol

  • This sounds like the CD's big brother.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I hope so.

      CD became the ideal storage medium for a while. Cheap, ubiquitous, and mostly durable (I've had maybe 25 rot out a few thousand in the past 20 years). It was everything I hoped minidisc would be before Sony crippled it.

      Bluray and the like increased density, but were a great deal more fragile and somewhat hamstrung by licensing. Storing on hard drives is workable for now, but you can't visually inspect a HD and know you should be replacing it soon. And should it become borked, data recovery isn't q

      • Minidisc could have been the ideal CD replacement. Archival-grade stability from the magneto-optical discs, rewriteable ~1 million times and protected from physical harm by a solid caddy.

        Unfortunately Sony tends to fuck up more often than not, and MD is no exception.

      • by Khyber ( 864651 )

        "but you can't visually inspect a HD and know you should be replacing it soon"

        Actually, some hard drives got hot enough over time that you could see the typical blue/purple heat discoloration on the top enclosure plate near the vent hole. You knew it was either time to fix your cooling or replace those drives, or both.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Yes, the glass might be stable at room temperature and durable in that respect. However, it's also easy to scratch glass, so there will be issues with any small imperfections. I just don't think this is viable for data storage because of scratches.

    • Re: Scratches (Score:5, Interesting)

      by saloomy ( 2817221 ) on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @01:54AM (#51517219)
      Glass is hundreds of times more scratch resistant than the extremely delicate magnetic media they install in hard drives (ok it really isn't, but the sensitivity is just as crazy because of the nano-meter tolerances required). Of course, this technology could be used in a protective case, like a hard drive, especially if the density/aging rates are as stated.
    • Also, it can be seen through so no porn there mates!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by stevelinton ( 4044 )

      Just don't the top 0.1mm of the glass. You lose a few TB of capacity, but now the data is below any scratches.

    • by gnupun ( 752725 )

      Let's the manufacturers don't cheap out, like they did with CDs and DVDs, and expose the glass to human touch. Even 1.44" floppies had a plastic/metal cover protecting the delicate media.

    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      "Yes, the glass might be stable at room temperature and durable in that respect. However, it's also easy to scratch glass, so there will be issues with any small imperfections."

      First, you fail at understanding Moh's hardness scale, secondly, you fail at understanding how we make and assess quartz crystals (essentially crystals of silicon dioxide) today.

      Making these storage discs is absolutely fucking trivial. We make equally-pure quartz for smoking purified cannabis extracts (quartz nails, which takes heat

  • If the latter... wow.
  • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @01:53AM (#51517215)

    As long as our descendants have the high technology to read it!!!

    • Mod parent up! I still have perfectly good floppy disks lying around. No way to read them. And it's only been a couple of decades ago. Let alone billions of years!
      • by Anonymous Coward

        "I still have perfectly good floppy disks lying around. No way to read them."

        If you have no way to read them... How do you know they are still perfectly good?

        (Let's not let the discussion degenerate into a debate over whether the floppy disks are currently Shrodingered.)

      • by bytesex ( 112972 )

        USB floppy drives can be had.

        • by Somebody Is Using My ( 985418 ) on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @10:43AM (#51519069) Homepage

          USB floppy drives can be had.

          Well, USB 3.5" floppy disk drives can be had. I've /never/ found a 5.25" or 8" floppy drive with a USB interface. And - believe it or not - some people still use those.

          (not me though; I saw the way the wind was blowing and wisely converted everything to Zip disks [wikipedia.org] :-)

          • I've /never/ found a 5.25" or 8" floppy drive with a USB interface

            Well, there's this: http://www.deviceside.com/ [deviceside.com]

          • (not me though; I saw the way the wind was blowing and wisely converted everything to Zip disks)

            I hope you got the external model that connects to the parallel port, because we all know that port is going to be around forever!

            • Well it is still in use. We still have - sorry, had, I was made redundant a couple of days ago - customers using our software with parallel port dongles (in the security device sense, not the "electronics on a cable sense").

              Where they get desktops with a parallel port on, I neither know nor care. someone else's problem.

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        Any good data-recovery outfit will read those floppies for you.

    • First they have to recognize that it's something that can be read.

      • by qbast ( 1265706 ) on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @04:36AM (#51517621)
        Dig site 12, artifact 2372: perfectly preserved glass discs. Assumed to be religious artifacts, associated with worship of the sun.
        • by hackertourist ( 2202674 ) <hackertouristNO@SPAMxmsnet.nl> on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @06:39AM (#51517945)

          You underestimate archaeologists.

          Hang on, there seems to be something embedded in the glass. Let's point a microscope at it.

          The Long Now foundation [rosettaproject.org] has found a nice solution to this. Put some writing around the edge of the glass disc. Make the initial few words large enough to be readable without magnification, and then make the text progressively smaller to encourage people to grab a magnifier.

          • You assume educated archaeologists will be the ones digging them up. It's just as likely to be 1800's era adventurers/tomb raiders digging up anything shiny to show off and making wild ass assumptions to attract rich patrons.
            • You assume no-one educated will ever look at them. Once the news gets out that this sort of glass disc can contain information, every single glass disc found by experts or amateurs will be examined for ancient writing.

              • by Anonymous Coward

                BRB burning this argument to a glass plate so the next era will assume we are all idiots that can't be helped but to argue over nonsensical topics like this one.

            • by epine ( 68316 )

              It's just as likely to be 1800's era adventurers/tomb raiders digging up anything shiny to show off and making wild ass assumptions to attract rich patrons.

              Congratulations. Your world view has succumbed to charismatic picaroon survivorship bias.

          • "Make the initial few words large enough to be readable without magnification, and then make the text progressively smaller to encourage people to grab a magnifier."

            Or grab a grandkid to read it to ya.
        • Waiting for Ancient Aliens guy to claim that the feldspar/sunstones used by the Vikings for navigation on cloudy days were actually misunderstood alien data storage media.
      • Luckily you can etch human-readable labels into the discs as well, as per TFA. Which could include micro-scale text describing how to read the really small stuff.

    • Therefore, we should chisel all data onto stone tablets!! Great solution, Nutria!!!
      • by Nutria ( 679911 )

        Therefore, we should chisel all data onto stone tablets!!

        Way to leap to wholly unwarranted conclusions, Gerry!!!

  • this is all excellent news, but 'a new era of eternal data archiving' !
    anyone for a sign of human hubris.

     

  • by blindseer ( 891256 ) <blindseer@@@earthlink...net> on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @02:32AM (#51517307)

    Very interesting technology but I have many questions on its utility. First of all, how does it compare to existing technologies? Put it in terms of terabytes per dollar, kilogram, cubic centimeters, or joule, and then give the same specifications for storage we have now like hard drives, SSD, Library of Congress (had to work that in here somewhere), microfilm, or even the human brain.

    The data density is important but then so is the rate that the data can be stored and retrieved, and put this in terms that people understand. Compare it to IDE, PCI, or station wagons full of digital tapes. Knowing some of this would give us some idea on how useful this technology would be.

    If we are going to discuss storing data for extended periods of time then I'd think that the data should be in a form that is human readable with some very basic equipment. Nanoscale etchings on glass that are written in a commonly written language that can be read with a proper microscope sounds near ideal to me. Better yet have it in multiple languages, this gives not only redundancy of the data but gives a better chance that it could be read by a future civilization.

    While human readability is a must so is having a method that eases machine readability. We can assume that any civilization that can read nanoscale text can also create an OCR system to transfer the data into a computer system but we can do things to make it easier on us and whatever future entity wishes to reliably recover the data. Just making a good choice of fonts so that a "1", "l", and "I" are readily distinguishable.

    Again, this is cool stuff, but I crave more.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Sounds like you were expecting a competent written article. This is a soup of buzz words.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Femto laser writing in 3D has been around for awhile. Apparently for fiber optic cable. It's basically creating 3 different waveguide paths of light within a flexible glass cable.
        http://spie.org/newsroom/technical-articles/5979-femtosecond-laser-3d-writing-from-smart-catheters-to-distributed-lab-in-fiber-sensing
        And all I want for Xmas is an m-disc burner.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @04:13AM (#51517553)
      Glass is very stable over centuries so long as you don't get it wet. Water attacks it very slowly but will eventually leach it away - hence the fuss about vitirification of nuclear waste and some proposed storage sites being too wet.
      The stuff about church windows flowing over time is "chinese whispers" about lead organ pipes somehow getting confused with glass, then attempted justification after the fact because glazier put the stronger thick edge at the bottom. You need low end oven temperatures for glass to flow over a timeframe of centuries.
      • Had not heard that before (have heard the urban myth times). Thanks for the interesting walk through google, other people who have not come across this before might find this page [unl.edu] to be interesting.

      • "hence the fuss about vitirification of nuclear waste"

        Some of us are opposed to vitrification because that "waste" is mostly useful material for future reactors.

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          I suggest reading a bit of stuff on the Harford web site to get some perspective about what is reusable and what is not.

          If you are impatient the short answer is that most things bombarded with neutrons become low level nuclear waste that is not active enough to ever use for fuel. It still has to be disposed of in some way - not a difficult problem, but just an example that the wave the magic wand idea of reusing everything as fuel is a simple and misleading "lie to children".

          If you want to discuss at a m
    • by Namarrgon ( 105036 ) on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @04:56AM (#51517679) Homepage

      According to the paper [soton.ac.uk], they wrote three layers deep at a 150nm pitch [soton.ac.uk]. At 3 bits per nanodot, the claimed 360TB could be stored in about one square inch. Compare that to the latest 10TB HDDs, which have an areal density of around 0.14 TB per square inch.

      No figures are given for transfer speeds, though they describe 200kHz laser pulses, which would be about 75 kB/second - not so dramatic, but it is after all a lab prototype. There are numerous options for speeding this up in commercial products.

      If the intention is to provide data for future civilisations, then presumably some "key" discs would be included, with information at various scales describing the technology, equipment, and encoding needed to read the next deeper scale. The larger scales could be inscribed in common human-readable languages, but any civilisation capable of imaging the deepest nanoscopic scales would have no problem decoding well-described binary formats as well.

      • by wings ( 27310 ) on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @10:05AM (#51518725) Homepage

        I can see it now. An advanced civilization finds the key disks, spends months learning the technology, builds special equipment and tools to decode the disks only to find.... cat videos.

        • I can see it now. An advanced civilization finds the key disks, spends months learning the technology, builds special equipment and tools to decode the disks only to find.... cat videos.

          I think this scenario is even more likely:

          "builds special equipment and tools to decode the disks only to find.... Rick Astley videos."

      • Doesn't make any sense.

        1) The first paper you linked to was entitled "5D Data Storage by Ultrafast Laser Nanostructuring in Glass" published in 2013 - not the same title as the one referred to by the article: "5D Data Storage by Ultrafast Laser Writing in Glass" due to be published tomorrow (2016).

        2) The second paper you linked to mentions a pitch of "up to" 150 nm but was published in 2006.

        3) Using the 150 nm pitch figure from the 2006 paper:
        25400000 nm per inch / 150 nm pitch = 170000 dots per inch per la

        • 1) & 2) Yeah, the linked papers were older, but there's (still) no record of the new paper, so I went with what I could find.

          3) You're right, my pitch math was way off. But the glass discs shown weren't much more than a square inch, and reportedly could hold "up to" 360TB, so the result is probably still close. There's no reason given to limit the discs to only 3 layers - they could have hundreds, at 5 micron spacing. It's also possible they could be using a tighter dot pitch since 2006.

          other 3) I read

    • by Teun ( 17872 ) on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @05:38AM (#51517797) Homepage
      Given a sufficiently developed culture they will have technology to read this data.

      The problem is DRM, with many millennia of durability Congress will need to expand the period of protection else the IP holders will suffer.
    • 'Scientists have developed X' usually implies that this is a one off prototype in a lab somwhere, possibly using hand crafted instruments to operate and certainly not a streamlined manufacturing process.

      That makes it hard to compare on many of those specifications with fully developed industrial products. Data density may be the only spec that they can truthfully give an accurate number for at this time.
      Of course if you'd ask the right people you will get some great sounding numbers for all of your question

    • Nanoscale etchings on glass that are written in a commonly written language

      HWÃT: WE GAR-DENA IN GEARDAGUM theodcyninga thrym gefrunon. Hu tha æthelingas ellen fremedon ! Oft Scyld Scefing sceaþena threatum monegum mægþum meodosetla ofteah, egsode eorl, sythan ærest wearth feasceaft funden. He thæs frofre gebad, weox under wolcnum, weorthmyndum þah, oth thæt him æghwylc thara ymbsittendra ofer hron

    • If we are going to discuss storing data for extended periods of time then I'd think that the data should be in a form that is human readable with some very basic equipment.

      For what definitions of "basic equipment"?

      FTFA,

      The self-assembled nanostructures change the way light travels through glass, modifying polarisation of light that can then be read by combination of optical microscope and a polariser,

      Well, I've got a microscope that can do the polarisation work. But not to 5 microns resolution. That's a ca

  • by GrpA ( 691294 ) on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @02:43AM (#51517343)

    Are all these "Glass Discs" shaped like human skulls?

    The Mayans might have some copyright issues with that ( Mayan copyright lifetime = Author death + 2 Mayan Apocalypses )

  • by Daniel Matthews ( 4112743 ) on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @03:12AM (#51517395)
    We have a lot of Deeply Dense Data that needs Storage.
  • The best way to compliment this system is with a means of retrieving the data and presenting it using only sunlight. If you could design a system that store light and use it to project a screen and keyboard to access the data, they entire thing can be set in a stone monument.
  • ,....

    Seriously, at least 2 to 5 a year since I got on the internet back in 1997?
    Always a fun read, never come to fruition.

    I remember reading about 100GB optical drives in 1999.
    https://www.pctechguide.com/removable-storage/florescent-disc-technology [pctechguide.com]

    Nothing ever comes to fruition

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      Isn't BDXL good to 100GB per disc?

      Now you can say you finally got your 100GB optical discs.

      I'd almost wager that the "maximum capacity" of what was talked about in 1999 is largely where BD discs are at today, only they didn't call them Blu-Ray in 1999 and in 2016 100 GB capacity is on the large side of marginally useful.

      It's like USB flash drives. The 4 GB size is really only useful for writing CD ISOs for booting CD-less computers. The 8 GB size is really only useful for DVD ISOs. 32 GB and below are pr

      • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

        Don't know about you but anything bigger than 2GB is pretty useless. All I use a USB flash drive for is as the boot device for a Linux server that is doing software RAID. Simplifies disk replacement enormously. I guess you might find use for something bigger in a vSphere server or similar, though most servers come with SD card slots (redundant as well) these days.

        For everything else there is a network, and even for install and rescue purposes the network is better than a USB drive. I guess somewhere once yo

        • by swb ( 14022 )

          I think anything over 4 GB is largely wasted in a ESXi environment, although when I have used them as boot devices I've gone with 8GB models as a kind of future proof as I have bad memories of old ESX default installs using partitions too small to accept upgrades.

          There may also be some value to underprovisioning the hardware -- if ESXi only uses the first 4 GB, the thumb drive hardware wear leveling will likely give it a longer lifespan by giving it an actual 8 GB to work against, although writes are so inf

  • by DougDot ( 966387 ) <dougr@parrot-farm.net> on Tuesday February 16, 2016 @11:20AM (#51519307) Homepage

    I'm sorry, but this is just plain cool. We can now record every single bit of information that the human race has produced, and know that it will last for another 13.8 billion years. Think of it! All of our fairy tails, such as The Brothers Grim, Mother Goose, the bible, the quran, intelligent design, chemtrails, the illuminati, you name it...

    Odin.
    Zeus.
    Quetzalcoatl.
    Moroni.

    Billions of years from now some truly intelligent species will discover our eternal library and laugh their alien asses off!

    • Well, unless you're shooting that off into deep space the sun will forcibly exceed the temperature tolerances for all such discs held on Earth after about another 4-5 billion years or so...
  • That pattern is well-established by now. If they have a drive and media that are actually available, I may take an interest, but not before.

  • And soon, these glass disks will be like 8 inch floppies that nobody can find a drive to read. So much for your 13.8 billion year lifetime.

  • I have heard about holographic memory being the next big thing in storage since the 90's. In 2001 there were companies "demonstrating" prototypes they said would be on the mass market soon that never materialized. It is great that they continue to work on the problems.

    Forgive me if I do not hold my breath on this kind of thing. It's been a pipe dream of research up to this point with many many cases of companies claiming to bring it out real soon now.

    Looks like articles on the topic appear
  • 19 degrees C is about room temperature, not 190.

    The summary faithfully describes the article content, however... so it's not a submitter error. I'm curious though... was the error caused by computer (such as an OCR error), or by a human (eg: typo)?

  • We can write data to these tiny glass disks and read it back again.

    Using equipment the size of a house. Slowly.

    The acid test will be fitting all that gubbins into a 5.25" single height case (or something smaller) and getting read/seek rates high enough to be useful.

  • Very poor turnout from you lot. Why has nobody mentioned the amazing porn storage you could have with this media?
    (Purely for reasons of whoever (or whatever) billions of years from now, is going to be interested in what what we looked like, we should provide a record for them. No other reason of course...)

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