Researchers in Southampton University in the UK have recently developed a technique using femtosecond laser pulses to write data in the 3D structure of quartz at the nanoscale. The pulses create three layers of nanostructured dots, each just five microns above the other. The changes in the structure can be read by interrogating the sample with another pulse of light and recording its polarization —the orientation of the waves—after it is passed through.
The team has rewritten a series of major documents into small glass disks including Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Newton’s Opticks, the Magna Carta and the Kings James Bible. The density of these data disks suggest that it can squeeze a total of 360 terabytes onto one single piece of quartz. The researchers also highlighted the stability of these data, enduring as long as 13.8 billion years at temperature to to 350 degrees in Fahrenheit.
This idea of compacting data in small spaces have been around for a while. In 2012, a similar project was tested when 40 megabytes were squeezed per square inch – appropriately the same density of a music CD.