updated 07:16 pm EDT, Mon September 24, 2012
New storage has low data density, but extremely durable
Hitachi has developed a prototype storage media, filing information on slivers of quart glass that can endure extreme environmental conditions without degrading. The new technology stores data in binary form by creating dots inside a thin layer of quartz which can be read with an ordinary optical microscope and associated software package.
The prototype storage device is two CM (.79 inches) square and just two MM (.079 inches) thick. Quartz is the same material as used to make some beakers and other instruments for laboratory use, and can be exposed to a high radiation flux or heated to 1,000C (1,832F) for at least two hours with no damage to the lattice or the data. The material is resistant to many chemicals, has a high resistance to radiation, and is unaffected by radio waves.
The material is currently four layers thick, and has the same data density as a music CD, about 40MB per square inch. The researchers believe that adding more layers to the substrate should not be a problem. "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," Hitachi researcher Kazuyoshi Torii said.
Hitachi hasn't announced any practical implementations of the technology as of yet. Government, religious, and educational institutions with large volumes of text as opposed to multimedia are the most likely first customers.