In a case of life imitating art, memory crystals such as those dreamt up in the iconic Superman movies could soon be boosting computer memory in the real world.
Researchers from Southampton University have utilised lasers to rearrange the individual atoms in a single piece of glass. In doing this, the piece of glass can then be used to store computer data in a way that could revolutionise the industry.
Current methods of data storage are vulnerable to temperature and moisture, which can damage them, sometimes beyond repair. Glass, however, isn’t susceptible to such factors and also has an expected lifespan of thousands of years – comprehensively beating the few decades that current data storage models have.
Furthermore, being totally unaffected by water and able to withstand up to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, glass could be much more resistant to potentially damaging external forces without losing any information stored within.
A different glass of storage
The act of realigning atoms isn’t a permanent amendment. However it can be repeated or changed time after time, meaning that data can be written, erased and then re-written with ease.
It works by manipulating light beams as they pass through the glass. As this happens, whirlpool-like refractions of polarised light are created, which can be ‘read’ in a similar way to that of optical fibres, already in widespread usage.
The team can already store the equivalent of a Blu-Ray movie-worth of data onto a piece of glass that is around the same size as a typical mobile phone screen. Of course, as time goes on and techniques improve, the capacity will increase whilst glass size plummets.
Current methods of data storage are vulnerable to temperature and moisture, damaging them beyond repair. Glass isn’t susceptible to such factors and has an expected lifespan of thousands of years.
“We have developed this memory, which means data can be stored on the glass and last forever,” lead researcher Martynas Beresna told dailymail.co.uk. “It could become a very stable and safe form of portable memory.”