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Hitachi Says Data Lives Forever in Quartz Glass

By - Source: AFP | B 61 comments

Hitachi has found a way to store data in quartz glass.

The AFP news agency reports that Hitachi has discovered a way to store digital information on slivers of quartz glass. This data can seemingly exist forever, enduring extreme temperatures and hostile conditions without degrading... at least until the sun begins to die and expend to consume the earth, that is.

According to the report, the new tech stores data in binary form by creating dots inside thin sheets of quartz glass which can be read using your standard optical microscope. The current prototype is roughly 0.8-inches square and 0.08-inches thick, and consists of four layers of dots which can hold up to 40 MB per square inch -- approximately the density of a music CD. More data layers can easily be added.

Hitachi researcher Kazuyoshi Torii said that quartz glass is highly stable and resilient material, used to make beakers and other instruments for laboratory use. Due to the medium, the chip is waterproof, resistant to many chemicals and unaffected by radio waves. Even more, it can be exposed directly to high temperature flames and heated to 1,832 Fahrenheit for at least two hours without being damaged.

"We believe data will survive unless this hard glass is broken," said senior researcher Takao Watanabe.

The discovery arrives as consumers push their data to the cloud. Physical media is an acceptable temporary backup, but not ideal for the long-term. Even NAND flash-based solutions won't last forever, thus pushing consumers to find ways of storing their digital photos and other personal items online. This too isn't exactly ideal, but the data is backed up by multiple servers, thus serving as a more secure solution than a simple HDD or DVD.

"The volume of data being created every day is exploding, but in terms of keeping it for later generations, we haven't necessarily improved since the days we inscribed things on stones," Torii added. "The possibility of losing information may actually have increased."

The article doesn't state how these chips will be "read" outside using a microscope although it sounds like some kind of microscope-based reader is on the horizon. There's also no indication as to when this storage solution will become commercially available, but researchers indicated that government agencies, museums and religious organizations will likely be first in line.

 

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  • 16 Hide
    nurgletheunclean , September 24, 2012 11:49 PM
    "The current prototype is roughly 0.8-inches square and 0.08-inches thick, and consists of four layers of dots which can hold up to 40 MB per square inch -- approximately the density of a music CD."

    90's capacity isn't going to fly today. Unless they step up the density 100x or more this isn't going to be adopted.
  • 14 Hide
    gamoniac , September 25, 2012 2:28 AM
    This is kind of like what superman's dad use to store their data in the North Pole... but at 40MB per square inch, no wonder they need a whole mountain of crystal to store his parents' halogram. Now it starts to make sense :) 
  • 11 Hide
    master_chen , September 24, 2012 11:33 PM
    Transparent HDDs/SSDs? Please do!
    Already drooling to get my hands on this.

    P.S. Also, lawsuit coming from "M-Disc" creators in 3...2...1...
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  • 11 Hide
    master_chen , September 24, 2012 11:33 PM
    Transparent HDDs/SSDs? Please do!
    Already drooling to get my hands on this.

    P.S. Also, lawsuit coming from "M-Disc" creators in 3...2...1...
  • 16 Hide
    nurgletheunclean , September 24, 2012 11:49 PM
    "The current prototype is roughly 0.8-inches square and 0.08-inches thick, and consists of four layers of dots which can hold up to 40 MB per square inch -- approximately the density of a music CD."

    90's capacity isn't going to fly today. Unless they step up the density 100x or more this isn't going to be adopted.
  • -8 Hide
    master_chen , September 24, 2012 11:55 PM
    Quote:
    90's capacity isn't going to fly today.


    They said EXACTLY the same about SSDs back in the early-mid 2000's...and look where SSDs are now: today it's actually harder to find a PC-build without at least one SSD inside (even if it's the most crappy and cheapest one), than to find "HDD-only" PC-build.
  • 5 Hide
    Abion47 , September 25, 2012 12:10 AM
    master_chenThey said EXACTLY the same about SSDs back in the early-mid 2000's...and look where SSDs are now: today it's actually harder to find a PC-build without at least one SSD inside (even if it's the most crappy and cheapest one), than to find "HDD-only" PC-build.


    The problem with this medium is that in most regards it is a step in the wrong direction. Any reader will have to be mechanical, taking us back to the same kind of technology as HDDs (and the reading process is visual instead of electric or magnetic, making the reading speed more in the realm of CD/DVD drives). The only advantage this medium has over what we have is longevity, and that by itself won't make up for the slow access speeds. Unless some big leaps are taken here, this medium will have a very small market, limited only to machines whose only purpose is long term storage with very little access.
  • 1 Hide
    mouse24 , September 25, 2012 12:30 AM
    ^ I can see this as being VERY VERY useful as a media disk, just put a piece of clear material over the "disk" (say a bit of hard plastic) that way it stops your "dvds" from ever becoming scratched or broken.

    More useful than a HDD? Not really but in this case game companies can supposedly easily add additional storage space without moving into a whole new medium and I ASSUME that it will take up less space inside a unit than a traditional hdd.

    Or uh, game companies can invest in USB, IMO that would just be easier and cooler looking. Not to mention its readily available. The size of games today is roughly 8gb which can be had for as low as 5 dollars before any discounts that are given to big corporations buying in bulk.
  • 5 Hide
    A Bad Day , September 25, 2012 12:32 AM
    One of my decade-old CDs have been rendered unreadable, I suspect the moisture and heat corrupted the data over the years.

    Though, the CD is an AOL 1000 hours. So I'm not that sad, until a more important CD also bites the dust.

    Or a Laserdisc. Yes, I still have the LD player and a collection of the Laserdiscs.
  • 6 Hide
    theabsinthehare , September 25, 2012 12:44 AM
    Abion47The problem with this medium is that in most regards it is a step in the wrong direction. Any reader will have to be mechanical, taking us back to the same kind of technology as HDDs (and the reading process is visual instead of electric or magnetic, making the reading speed more in the realm of CD/DVD drives). The only advantage this medium has over what we have is longevity, and that by itself won't make up for the slow access speeds. Unless some big leaps are taken here, this medium will have a very small market, limited only to machines whose only purpose is long term storage with very little access.


    Many companies still back up to magnetic tape despite all your arguments applying to that medium as well. Slow is okay if the plan is for long term storage only. I think the near indestructible nature is a fair tradeoff for specialized readers/writers and speed.

    However, the storage density is a problem. With 40MB per square inch at 0.08" thick, a block of this stuff the size of a traditional 3.5" hard drive would only hold ~9GB. I think, though, that would only have to increase by 6 or 12 fold to make it viable. I wouldn't mind 50 to 100GB of storage taking up 19.5 cubic inches in my house somewhere if it meant that the data was (almost) absolutely ensured to be completely safe and permanent.
  • -3 Hide
    nurgletheunclean , September 25, 2012 12:46 AM
    Abion47The problem with this medium is that in most regards it is a step in the wrong direction. Any reader will have to be mechanical, taking us back to the same kind of technology as HDDs (and the reading process is visual instead of electric or magnetic, making the reading speed more in the realm of CD/DVD drives). The only advantage this medium has over what we have is longevity, and that by itself won't make up for the slow access speeds. Unless some big leaps are taken here, this medium will have a very small market, limited only to machines whose only purpose is long term storage with very little access.


    Longevity is tied to capacity, and modern times. Sure a 700mb CD is fine for storing a couple hundred 1megapixel pictures. But today we have thousands of 12+ megapixel pictures and 1080p home videos. 700mb isn't practical for modern media. Not to mention this is going to be expensive. Furthermore permanency isn't that important in the first place. Typically users will move/consolidate libraries of timeless info on new media, a DVD, a hard drive, flash, cloud, etc. If a floppy drive was good forever would you still use it today? That's about how usefull 700mb of permanent storage is going to be in 4 or 5 years, when this tech would hit a consumer, the capacities must increase or you are looking at a obsolete product at launch.
  • 1 Hide
    A Bad Day , September 25, 2012 1:04 AM
    nurgletheuncleanLongevity is tied to capacity, and modern times. Sure a 700mb CD is fine for storing a couple hundred 1megapixel pictures. But today we have thousands of 12+ megapixel pictures and 1080p home videos. 700mb isn't practical for modern media. Not to mention this is going to be expensive. Furthermore permanency isn't that important in the first place. Typically users will move/consolidate libraries of timeless info on new media, a DVD, a hard drive, flash, cloud, etc. If a floppy drive was good forever would you still use it today? That's about how usefull 700mb of permanent storage is going to be in 4 or 5 years, when this tech would hit a consumer, the capacities must increase or you are looking at a obsolete product at launch.


    There one problem though:

    Do you really think an average joe is going to waste hours transferring data from VHS tapes or CDs to Blu-ray or some other format?
  • 1 Hide
    spentshells , September 25, 2012 1:14 AM
    i need this to retain my kids pictures
  • 14 Hide
    gamoniac , September 25, 2012 2:28 AM
    This is kind of like what superman's dad use to store their data in the North Pole... but at 40MB per square inch, no wonder they need a whole mountain of crystal to store his parents' halogram. Now it starts to make sense :) 
  • 3 Hide
    freggo , September 25, 2012 3:29 AM
    A Bad DayThere one problem though:D o you really think an average joe is going to waste hours transferring data from VHS tapes or CDs to Blu-ray or some other format?


    That obviously depends on what is on the VHS tapes.
    Weddings, Graduations, Grandpa's multi-billion $$ video will :-)

  • 8 Hide
    pepe2907 , September 25, 2012 3:59 AM
    nurgletheuncleanLongevity is tied to capacity, and modern times. Sure a 700mb CD is fine for storing a couple hundred 1megapixel pictures. But today we have thousands of 12+ megapixel pictures and ...


    These are for really important data, not for your precious facebook profile pics. :) 
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , September 25, 2012 4:04 AM
    It's saying that dots are physically etched in the crystal, does that mean it's not re-writable?
  • 2 Hide
    digiex , September 25, 2012 5:51 AM
    How many square inch of this glass can hold my memory, so that it can last until the earth boils over.
  • -4 Hide
    IndignantSkeptic , September 25, 2012 6:09 AM
    I know I will probably get thumbed down for this but I don't care. In my opinion, this technology is pointless because we can currently keep digital data in perfect condition indefinitely by using a backup system, which keeps multiple copies of data, and by occasionally transferring all the data to a new storage medium before it erodes too far. That's it. The whole thing can be automated as well so we wouldn't need to keep checking and remembering to periodically backup and transfer the data.

    If religious institutions and governments are interested in this it's probably because they are usually infested with religious people who are people that tend to be very stupid and gullible; they are not tech-savvy and can be fooled easily.
  • -1 Hide
    ethaniel , September 25, 2012 6:13 AM
    You just need a crazy guy/gal with a hammer and "poof!", goodbye data. One more thing: It's the density "of a CD". Music, data... you're just writing dots anyway.
  • 3 Hide
    _Cosmin_ , September 25, 2012 6:59 AM
    Diamonds are forever! Now combine this with holographic storage (it allows much higher data per square inch)... and please make it cheaper !
  • 2 Hide
    _Cosmin_ , September 25, 2012 7:03 AM
    Abion47The problem with this medium is that in most regards it is a step in the wrong direction. Any reader will have to be mechanical, taking us back to the same kind of technology as HDDs (and the reading process is visual instead of electric or magnetic, making the reading speed more in the realm of CD/DVD drives). The only advantage this medium has over what we have is longevity, and that by itself won't make up for the slow access speeds. Unless some big leaps are taken here, this medium will have a very small market, limited only to machines whose only purpose is long term storage with very little access.


    Why it need to be mechanical? Can be optical very easy. In case you don`t know the CD/DVD/BD laser cut micro holes in material which then are read back by another laser. Why cant a laser read the dots in this quartz ??
  • 1 Hide
    master_chen , September 25, 2012 8:10 AM
    Quote:
    40MB per square inch, no wonder they need a whole mountain of crystal.


    "Crystal Tokyo"...
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