Fourth Industrial Revolution

This tiny disc can preserve human history for billions of years

A woman and her daughter touch a structural model of the earth's core at Nanjing Geological Museum in Nanjing, Jiangsu province April 22, 2011. Earth Day, which is celebrated on April 22 every year, marks an annual effort to raise public awareness about the environment and inspire actions to clean it up. The Chinese characters on the model read "outer core". REUTERS/Sean Yong (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY ANNIVERSARY ENVIRONMENT IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTR2LHTC

A woman and her daughter touch a structural model of the earth's core at Nanjing Geological Museum. Image: REUTERS/Sean Yong

Ian Kar
Finance Reporter, Quartz
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Data Science

It’s official: your data will outlive you by a few billion years.

On Tuesday (Feb. 17), a group of researchers from the University of Southampton’s Optical Research Center announced they have developed a new way to store data that can keep your digital information safe for an estimated 13.8 billion years.

The new method, called five-dimensional (5D) data storage, can store 360 terabytes of data in the nanostructures in glass. The researchers have been working on this since 2013, when they released a paper outlining the procedure, but perfected it only recently. They recently stored digital versions of the Magna Carta, the King James Bible, Opticksby Isaac Newton, and the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

As The Verge explains, 5D discs can store more data because the information can be packed into the tiny spaces inside of a glass disc, which is made up of fused quartz. Normal CDs store data by encoding them onto the surface of the glass, not inside of it. So, while a Blu-Ray disc can store 128 gigabytes of data, a 5D disc can store 3,000 times that amount.

With that kind of storage capability, the opportunity to commercialize 5D storage is clear. It could be useful for large corporations with lots of record-keeping, big data storage for tech giants, as well as preserving historical documents. The University of Southampton says commercializing 5D storage is on the roadmap, and the group is currently looking for industry partners.

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