Quantum holographic storage: it works!

Quantum holographic storage: it works!

Summary: Researchers at Stanford University have demonstrated quantum holographic storage, shattering long-held assumptions about the information limits of matter. Moving into the sub-atomic realm, they permanently stored 35 bits in the quantum space surrounding a single electron.

TOPICS: Storage, Hardware

Researchers at Stanford University have demonstrated quantum holographic storage, shattering long-held assumptions about the information limits of matter. Moving into the sub-atomic realm, they permanently stored 35 bits in the quantum space surrounding a single electron.

Moreover, the technique allows holograms to be "stacked" in 3 dimensions. They demonstrated 2 35-bit storage elements in the same space. Encoding data using mere atoms would be less than half as space efficient.

Holodeck backstory Traditional holograms - like those nifty green reflection skulls you see in trinket shops - use a laser. The laser is split into a reference beam and an object beam that has been reflected off the 3D surface you are recording.

The 2 beams are recombined and the resulting interference pattern stored in a 2D photographic emulsion. When viewed, the the hologram reproduces the object as it appeared in 3D space so it appears to rotate as it is moved.

A spin-off from Bell Labs has been working on commercial holographic storage for several years.

Quantum holography The researchers (Christopher R. Moon, Laila S. Mattos, Brian K. Foster, Gabriel Zeltzer and Hari C. Manoharan) an interdisciplinary team from the departments of Physics, Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics at Stanford, used a gas of 2D surface state electrons held on the face of a copper crystal. Using atomic manipulation the team place individual electrons in closed quantum corrals - a common research tool.

The tricky part was encoding a specific pattern around the electrons. Using simulated annealing, they controlled the amplitude and phase of the electrons to encode the bits.

Since the writing "surface" is a gas, the team was then able to encode holograms in the same space by embedding them volumetrically in 3D. Here's a picture:

[courtesy of the authors and Nature Nanotechnology]

A scanning tunneling microscope, a standard tool of atomic level research, was used to read the information and create the images.

iPod sub-Nano The authors conclude:

We have experimentally demonstrated that 35 bits can be permanently encoded into a time-independent fermionic state, and that two such states can be simultaneously prepared in the same area of space. . . . In all experimental attempts, extending down to the subatomic regime, the encoding was successful and the data were retrieved at 100% ?delity. We believe the limitations on bit size are [.025 of a nanometer], but surprisingly the information density can be signi?cantly boosted by using higher-energy electrons and stacking multiple pages holographically. Determining the full theoretical and practical limits of this technique — the trade-offs between information content (the number of pages and bits per page), contrast (the number of measurements required per bit to overcome noise), and the number of atoms in the hologram — will involve further work.

I hope they get the money they need to continue this research.

The Storage Bits take This is far frontiers research - not something you'll see in a commercial product in 5 years or even 25 years. But by demonstrating that quantum holography can store massive amounts of data in a very small space, the scientists have pushed out our conception of how much data mankind may eventually be able to process and store.

Comments welcome, of course. The original, highly technical, article is available online from Nature Nanotechnology (pdf).

Topics: Storage, Hardware

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  • Star Wars Geeks building a Holocron

    A new attempt. The old way used different colored lasers to store information in a artificial crystal. but I think this one will work better as long as the material stays stable.

    the crystal idea was a cube and was multi-layered across all 6 sides. Imagine, the 16layer blu-Ray, stacked ~10 or more times, over 6 directions. That's a minimum of 24 Terabites in 1 small cube.
    Maarek Stele
    • I'm still waiting for my Lightsaber (nt)

  • RE: Quantum holographic storage: it works!

    Do the phase-states alter as the STM tip probes the states in the corral? (IE is it a destructive readout?) I would imagine that the STM approach is very much an interim measure in any case, though.
    • Hmm

      Like the old "Memory re-write problem" with magnetic core memory.
      • Everything old becomes new again

        Ferro magnetic core memory - destructive read.

        But if reading multiple bits by using a wave to create interfers patterns (0 for dark, 1 for light) it may not be destructive.

        Like quantum computing using electron spin we might have storage and processing on the same electron.

        • Such stunted thinking..

          How long can it be before we can describe the entire known universe on a single electron?
  • RE: Quantum holographic storage: it works!

    Scary - can't begin to imagine what this would translate into in terms of storage capacity! We'll NEVER need that much storage (*irony warning*).
  • Ah, yes: the old "Memory re-write problem"...

    Much like the "read-before-decay, then re-write" of dynamic RAM technologies. Old problems stay around, they just use newer technologies! :-)

    Flash "forgets" after a while, too. I wonder how long EPROMs hold their data. Has anyone tested that in real-world conditions?
    Master Dave
    • Wold rate of change

      At the current rate of change data will soon be useless before it decays - ha ha ha ha

      UV EPROMS are good for decades if I remeber but the NAND ones have a limited life.
  • Where are those holographic disk drives We were promised a few years back?

    Remember those? One hundred gigabytes per disk. Beats DVDs all over!

    And CD-Rs? Puh-LEEZ! One hundred billion gigabytes works out to 161319.2 CD-Rs of six-fifty megabytes each.
    Master Dave
  • RE: Quantum holographic storage: it works!

    laughable as a reliable storage !
  • RE: Quantum holographic storage: it works!

    So here I am with all of the world's knowledge, in every known language, complete with 3-d multi-media and 64 channel sound, stored in my wrist-watch.

    How long will the backup take?

    How big will the computer have to be that searches a virtually infinite index?

    What's the 'seek time' for near infinity?

    Will it have a USB interface?

    Will it be XP Compatible?

    So many questions ... so little time
    Original Eggman
    • Check with Google, I think they applied for the patent.. :) nt.

    • The answers you have been seeking...

      "How long will the backup take?"
      Backup is online all of the time. For a restore, simply access the quantumn universe that is adjancent-inverted to ours and copy their data."

      "How big will the computer have to be that searches a virtually infinite index?"
      Microsoft Search will take care of that for you automatically, so why worry? Right? (insert Microsoft Marketing gibberish here)

      "What's the 'seek time' for near infinity?"
      Err Division By Zero. Contact your System Administrator.

      "Will it have a USB interface?"
      Sorry the only interfacet that will be available will be FTL cables configured in positronic mode. (Trekkies unite)

      "Will it be XP Compatible?"
      Only with XP 64bit edition. So the 2 or 3 people still running it will have access to this very valuable storage medium.

      "So many questions ... so little time"
      to paraphrase an 80's hit --> 'How can I choose...' (insert disco dance moves here)
  • RE: Quantum holographic storage: it works!

    It's quite exciting, I understand that the quantum processor is also being heavily researched. I really hope it blows away silicon and even (theoretical, I don't think they're yet made in practice) diamond based semiconductor limitations.
  • RE: Quantum holographic storage: it works!

    yes it works, when they develop it to a usable stage the scanning tunneling microscope will be used by high school students to read their textbooks for them, and take tests for them too!
  • RE: Quantum holographic storage: it works!

    >>The original, highly technical, article is available online from Nature Nanotechnology (pdf).

    Thank goodness, because frankly I found this summary to be way too dumbed down. Anyone who doesn't know what simulated annealing is shouldn't be allowed to use a computer.
    • And where does that conclusion come from?

      Can you build a house, design a bearing, fabricate a tire, or print a book, etc., etc., etc.? By your logic, if you can't do all these things or understand them, you shouldn't be allowed to drive a car, live in a house, or read.

      A computer is just a tool, buddy. You don't need to know everything about how to make a tool or even all about the inner workings of the tool, in order to use it. Sure, a hundred years ago, if you wanted a multitester to check out some circuitry, you probably had to build it yourself, and you knew how it worked. But for the better half of the last century there were thousands if not millions of technicians using such tools who would never have been able to "build" them.

      The research being done in quantum computing is exciting and will undoubtedly be of great benefit once its all worked out and into mainstream production. And I would bet that most of those who will be using it to begin with won't even know they're using it. Kinda like all the people using all these new technological devices running embedded Linux who still hove never even heard of Linux. Or all the people running their Windows computers without knowing what a "kernel" is, or thinking that Windows "is" the computer.

      Think a little, before you spout.

      Recovering Windows addict.
      • Check Your Sarcasm Meter...

        I think it needs a tune-up.
      • Ya gotta try...

        ..Linux Mint 6, it will straighten you out.