Hitachi reveals way of storing information for millions of years

The ultra long-term storage technology uses a laser to encode data into a piece of quartz glass that can be read back by an optical microscope, and could last hundreds of millions of years, though it can't store a lot of information.
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

Hitachi has developed a way of storing data that it says can keep information stable for hundreds of millions of years.

The quartz glass storage method was announced by Hitachi's chief executive officer, Hiroaki Nakanishi, in Tokyo on Monday.

"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, according to Agence France-Presse.

The technology uses a laser to stipple a piece of quartz glass with dots that correspond to binary code. An optical microscope can be used to read the information off the glass. 

Hitachi is confident of the longevity of the storage method because it heated one of the bits of glass to a temperature of 1,000° Celsius for two hours and was able to read all of the information back. Consequently, the company says, the technology should be able to preserve data for hundreds of millions of years. 

In comparison, the hard drive in your computer will probably fail inside 10 years. A frequently used flash drive can last around half as long, however, while storage's darling, tape, can last for 15 to 30 years.

Hitachi expects the new technology will be used for long-term data archives of cultural information, among other things. However, the density with which it can store data is poor.

The technology supports storing data in four layers on a quartz slab and, in tests, was able to store around 40MB per square inch. A modern hard drive can store up to one terabit per square inch.

Hitachi plans to give more information on the technology at the International Symposium on Optical Memory in Tokyo, Japan on September 30. At the time of writing, the company had not published information in English outlining the technology, but a Google translation from the original Japanese can be found here.

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