A few years ago, scientists at the University of Southampton announced the development of so-called 5D "Superman memory" crystals: small nanostructured glass discs that, through laser-writing, could hold a lot more data for a lot longer than other storage media. The team has continued to improve on that technology, and now report that they can record a whopping 360 terabytes of data on the discs—all of which will basically be immortal.
More precisely, if kept at room temperature, the discs will reportedly last for 13.8 billion years. (As a reminder, the universe is about 13.8 billion years old.) The team is presenting the technology at the International Society for Optical Engineering Conference in San Francisco this week. According to the abstract on the conference website, the data written on the discs can remain stable up to 1000°C (1832°F), and so far, a copy of the King James Bible and the Magna Carta have been successfully stored. The authors write: "Even at elevated temperatures of 160°C, the extrapolated decay time of nanogratings is comparable with the age of the Universe—13.8 billion years."
The full study has not yet been published, so there is currently no explanation regarding that incredibly long timetable, but the development is notable news in a world that's increasingly reliant on digital data storage.
In a press release, Professor Peter Kazansky from the University of Southampton's Optoelectronics Research Centre said: "It is thrilling to think that we have created the technology to preserve documents and information and store it in space for future generations.This technology can secure the last evidence of our civilization: all we’ve learnt will not be forgotten."
Check out the fabrication process for these teeny tiny data powerhouses below.