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New data storage disc to last a billion years

Last Updated: Sunday, October 27, 2013 - 20:50

London: Scientists have designed a nearly indestructible data storage disc that can store date for a million years - even if you barbecue it.

Although the amount of data that can be stored has increased immensely during the past few decades, it is still difficult to actually store data for a long period.

The key to successful information storage is to ensure that the information does not get lost, researchers said.

Jeroen de Vries from the University of Twente MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology, Netherlands, demonstrates that it is possible to store data for extremely long periods.

De Vries has developed an optical information carrier that can store information for extremely long periods of time, with each bit being written using etching techniques.

The chosen information carrier is a wafer consisting of tungsten encapsulated by silicon nitride.

Tungsten was chosen because it can withstand extreme temperatures. A QR code is etched into the tungsten and is protected by the nitride. Each pixel of the large QR code contains a smaller QR code that in turn stores different information.

In order to ensure the stability of the data, an energy barrier that separates the information from the non-information is required.

To prove that the data is still legible after millions of years, an ageing test is required to see if the energy barriers are high enough to prevent data loss.

Current hard disk drives have the ability to store vast amounts of data but last roughly ten years at room temperature, because their magnetic energy barrier is low so that the information is lost after a period of time.

CDs, DVDs, paper, tape, clay and tablets and stone also have a limited life. Alternatives will have to be sought if information is to be retained longer, researchers said.

"According to the Arrhenius model, the medium should keep working for at least 1 million years if it is heated to a temperature of 200 degrees Celsius and kept in the oven for an hour," said De Vries.

After the test there was no visible degradation of the tungsten, and it was still easy to read the information. Things become complicated at higher temperatures.

When heated to 440 degrees Celsius it becomes a lot more difficult to decipher the QR codes even if the tungsten is not affected.

First Published: Sunday, October 27, 2013 - 20:50
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