New Type of Optical Disk Can Store Data for More Than 600 Years

Scientists used gold and nanomaterials for the next-gen optical disk having 10TB storage capacity and six-century lifespan.

Scientists from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, and Wuhan Institute of Technology, China, demonstrated the use of gold and nanomaterials to develop a high-capacity optical disk that can store data for more than 600 years. This new technology can bring significant reduction in data center energy consumption – 1000 times less power traditional centers that make use of hard disk drives with limited storage capacity and lifespan.

The revolutionary technology could be an answer to the ever-growing demand for data, offering low-cost, sustainable solution to the global data storage problem.

Besides, the optical disk also opens the path for the world to shift from Big Data to Long Data, enabling opportunities for new discoveries by mining massive datasets.

"All the data we're generating in the Big Data era - over 2.5 quintillion bytes a day - has to be stored somewhere, but our current storage technologies were developed in different times," said Professor Min Gu from RMIT University leading the investigation.

"While optical technology can expand capacity, the most advanced optical disks developed so far have only 50-year lifespans."

"While optical technology can expand capacity, the most advanced optical disks developed so far have only 50-year lifespans.

"Our technique can create an optical disk with the largest capacity of any optical technology developed to date and our tests have shown it will last over half a millennium.

"While there is further work needed to optimize the technology - and we're keen to partner with industrial collaborators to drive the research forward - we know this technique is suitable for mass production of optical disks so the potential is staggering."

Their technique involves making use of gold nanoparticles with a hybrid glass material which provides high mechanical strength as well as improves the storage capacity. The nanoplasmonic hybrid glass matrix for data memory was developed using a sol-gel process that makes use of colloidal solution (sol) on a pre-existing surface to produce ceramics and glasses with better purity.

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The use of gold was essentially due to its robust and durable nature similar to glass. Gold nanoparticles further help in extending the storage capacity of the nanoplasmonic hybrid glass matrix as it allows storing information in five dimensions – three dimensions in space along with color and polarization.

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The lead author, Dr. Qiming Zhang from RMIT's School of Science also said that their research will be highly beneficial in developing storage devices for Long Data.

Long Data offers an unprecedented opportunity for new discoveries in almost every field - from astrophysics to biology, social science to business - but we can't unlock that potential without addressing the storage challenge," Zhang said.

"For example, to study the mutation of just one human family tree, 8 terabytes of data is required to analyze the genomes across 10 generations. In astronomy, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope produces 576 petabytes of raw data per hour."

"Meanwhile the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative to 'map' the human brain is handling data measured in yottabytes, or one trillion terabytes."

"These enormous amounts of data have to last over generations to be meaningful. Developing storage devices with both high capacity and long lifespan is essential, so we can realize the impact that research using Long Data can make in the world."

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Earlier, Gu and his team managed to break the optical limit of Blu-ray to enable data storage across the full spectrum of visible light rays.

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