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Life Imitates Comic Books

July 23, 2013

Anyone remember the memory crystal the Superman had?  It would store info, and look nice and chunky at the same time.  There have been other science fiction concepts that mirror this as well.  Well, life might again imitate science fiction.

Jingyu Zhang, a researcher at the uni’s Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) led the boffins of the Physical Optics Group in a joint project with the University of Eindhoven. A paper was presented about it at the Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics (CLEO’13) in San Jose earlier this month.

The paper was titled 5D Data Storage by Ultrafast Laser Nanostructuring in Glass (PDF, abstract, 2 pages) and data bits are located in a 5-dimensional space within the material, defined by their position in terms of:

  • Height

  • Width

  • Depth

  • Slow axis orientation

  • Strength of retardance

This is cool.  The three vectors of orientation/retardance (two of those) enable the crystal to store 3 bits of information every 5 micrometers.  While this is nowhere near the minimal size of Si memory, it’s also in a much more common crystalline format, with the potential for manufacturability pretty high.  Of course, research is research, and this will take quite a long time to get to common availability.

As fast as computing is moving, storage is moving equally fast or even faster.  It’s cool to see how fast the world is moving there.  My first storage technology that I used in any work capacity was a 7.5″ floppy drive, and I remember the days of 3Mb hard drives and dual floppies where that was AMAZING.  Now we’re talking about mass storage on a level that could keep large archives in a small crystal, and it would likely keep for thousands of years.  At this point, the bigger concern would be losing the crystal…

I’m constantly amazed at technology, and I think we’re still riding the wave of invention, where things will continue to come faster.  The ability of humans to consume the wonders of the world around us is only beginning.

Now… where did I put my flash drive?

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