Imagine a DVD sized disk that could store 360 Terabytes for millions of years. Hello 5D "Superman Memory".
A group of scientists from University of Southampton has developed a ‘five-dimensional’ optical memory, having experimentally proven a possibility of recording data into nanostructured glass using a high speed (femtosecond) laser, which creates self-assembled nanostructures in fused quartz.
The creators of 5D memory has dubbed their invention ‘Superman memory crystal’, following the ‘memory crystals’ used in a number of movies featuring the superhero.
The method is called 5D because in addition to the three dimensional position of these nanostructures their refraction and polarization characteristics work as two additional parameters.
The newly-developed storage promises unprecedented data capacity of 360 Terabyte for a DVD-sized disc. The maximum capacity of a latest generation quad-layer Blu-Ray DVD is “only” 128 Gigabytes.
Glass storage could preserve data for millions of years whereas a DVD guarantees only about seven years of faultless playback.
The nanostructured glass remains stable if exposed to temperatures up to 1,000°C. [emphasis mine]
This has been needed for a very long time: a durable Read-Only Memory with exceptionally long lifetime. After having dealt with "laser rot" in my old Laserdiscs and occasional other issues in related optical media, this is very good news, indeed.
I hope the most important documents are also stored printed in human-readable form!
In millions of years, it's more likely that our successors will have good OCR technology than that they've preserved the machines -- or the details and "recipes" they implement -- to decipher an ancient "opaque" storage medium. Once they manage to extract the quadrillions of bits on the disc, they'll also need to figure out how folders, files, and characters are represented in that data.
(Even now, just try finding a device to read an Apple II floppy disk, or one of the big 8" floppies!)
Next thing: memory storage in water! ;)