A paper titled "5D Data Storage by Ultrafast Laser Writing in Glass" was presented on Wednesday 17 February 2016 at The International Society for Optical Engineering Conference in San Francisco. This astonishing new technology adds new meaning to the concepts of "archival" and "density". This new data medium is capable of surviving for billions of years. It is thermally stable at temperatures up to 1000°C and at lower temperatures (twice as hot as boiling water - 190°C) it should remain stable for as long as the universe has been in existence, about 13.8 billion years! And if the archival features don't amaze you then consider the density: 360 TB per disc. Working prototypes as well as continual improvements have been made and tested since 2013, so this is not pie-in-the-sky.
This technology uses ultrafast lasers to produce extremely short and bright light pulses. The actual data is stored in nanostructures separated by 5 µm. And it can be read by what is essentially an optical microscope with a polarizer, which is pretty basic technology. Below is a demonstration of how data is written into the crystal.
Professor Peter Kazansky, from the University of Southampton's Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) said: “...we have created the technology to preserve documents and information and store it in space for future generations. This technology can secure the last evidence of our civilisation...”
Some people have nicknamed this technology the "Superman memory crystal" because it is reminiscent of the class like "memory crystals" that were sent to earth along with Superman, and which by the way stored the history of the planet krypton and its people.
The reason it's referred to as "5D" (five dimensional) is because it records data in the glass at unique three-dimensional locations, and each self-assembled now structure at each point can be encoded with size and orientation. The group is an active pursuit of industrial partners to commercialize this technology. I can hardly wait...Maybe now I can throw out all those 8-inch floppy disks we have in storage?