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Is your data immortal?

Data will fade away and perish eventually – it was true of tape and will eventually prove true of more modern media such as solid state.

But that may not be the case if we move to the technology demonstrated this week at the University of Southampton, whose researchers have harnessed quartz for data storage. They believe the data could be preserved for billions of years.

The demonstration used five dimensional (5D) technology to store up to 360TB of data on nanostructured quartz discs only slightly larger than a coin. This sounds impossibly large in such a small space, but so did 256 gigabytes on a phone only a decade ago.

Professor Peter Kazansky, from the University’s Optoelectronics Research Centre, said in the announcement of the step forward: “It is thrilling to think that 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: all we’ve learnt will not be forgotten.”

An ultrafast laser records the data to the quartz and the file is written in three layers of nanostructured dots separated by five micrometres.

Commenting in the announcement, Research and Markets said that if made commercially available, this technology could have a significant impact on the global data storage market.

“The global digital storage devices market is forecast to be worth $5.4bn [£3.8bn] by 2020, but this value could be higher if 5D technology is commercially released,” the organisation stated.

(Picture: a random mineral shot, no data has been stored on these pebbles as far as we know).