5D optical data storage

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5D optical data storage (also branded as Superman memory crystal,[1] a reference to the Kryptonian memory crystals from the Superman franchise) is an experimental nanostructured glass for permanently recording digital data using a femtosecond laser writing process.[2] Discs using this technology could be capable of storing up to 360 terabytes worth of data[3][4] for billions of years.[5][6][7][8] The concept was experimentally demonstrated in 2013.[9][10][11] Hitachi and Microsoft have researched glass-based optical storage techniques, the latter under the name Project Silica.[12][13]

The "5-dimensional" descriptor is for marketing purposes, since the device has 3 physical dimensions and no exotic higher dimensional properties. The fractal/holographic nature of its data storage is also purely 3-dimensional. The size, orientation and three-dimensional position of the nanostructures make up the claimed five dimensions.[3]

Technical design[edit]

The concept is to store data optically in non-photosensitive transparent materials such as fused quartz, which has high chemical stability. Recording data using a femtosecond-laser was first proposed and demonstrated in 1996.[1][14][15] The storage medium consists of fused quartz, where the spatial dimensions, intensity, polarization, and wavelength are used to modulate data. By introducing gold or silver nanoparticles embedded in the material, their plasmonic properties can be exploited.[1]

According to the University of Southampton:

The 5-dimensional discs [have] tiny patterns printed on 3 layers within the discs. Depending on the angle they are viewed from, these patterns can look completely different. This may sound like science fiction, but it's basically a really fancy optical illusion. In this case, the 5 dimensions inside of the discs are the size and orientation in relation to the 3-dimensional position of the nanostructures. The concept of being 5-dimensional means that one disc has several different images depending on the angle that one views it from, and the magnification of the microscope used to view it. Basically, each disc has multiple layers of micro and macro level images.[16]

Recorded data can be read with a combination of an optical microscope and a polarizer.[17]

The technique was first demonstrated in 2010 by Kazuyuki Hirao's laboratory at the Kyoto University,[18] and developed further by Peter Kazansky's research group at the Optoelectronics Research Centre, University of Southampton.[19][20][21][22]


In 2018, Professor Peter Kazansky used the technology to store a copy of Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy, which was launched into space aboard Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster in association with the Arch Mission Foundation.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Kazansky, P.; et al. (11 March 2016). "Eternal 5D data storage via ultrafast-laser writing in glass". SPIE Newsroom.
  2. ^ ""Cristais de memória do Superman" armazenam até 360TB por 1 milhão de anos". Terra. 11 November 2013. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Eternal 5D data storage could record the history of humankind". University of Southampton. 18 February 2016.
  4. ^ Huebler, Kevin (20 February 2016). "Superman memory crystal lets you store 360TB worth of data". CNBC.
  5. ^ "5D nanostructured quartz glass optical memory could provide 'unlimited' data storage for a million years". kurzweilai.net. 10 July 2013.
  6. ^ Borghino, Dario (11 July 2013). ""Superman memory crystal" could store hundreds of terabytes indefinitely". New Atlas.
  7. ^ Mullen, Jethro (17 February 2016). "New 'Superman' crystals can store data for billions of years". CNN-Tech.
  8. ^ Kazansky, Peter (11 March 2016). "Nanostructures in glass will store data for billions of years". SPIE Newsroom. Retrieved 11 March 2016.
  9. ^ "5D 'Superman memory' crystal could lead to unlimited lifetime data storage". University of Southampton. 9 July 2013.
  10. ^ Zhang, Jingyu; Gecevičius, Mindaugas; Beresna, Martynas; Kazansky, Peter G. (2013). "5D Data Storage by Ultrafast Laser Nanostructuring in Glass" (PDF). CLEO: 2013 Postdeadline (PDF). pp. CTh5D.9. doi:10.1364/CLEO_SI.2013.CTh5D.9. ISBN 978-1-55752-973-2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 September 2014.
  11. ^ "New nanostructured glass for imaging and recording developed". Phys.org. 15 August 2011.
  12. ^ "Project Silica". Microsoft.
  13. ^ Welch, Chris (27 September 2012). "Hitachi invents quartz glass storage capable of preserving data for millions of years". The Verge.
  14. ^ Glezer, E. N.; Milosavljevic, M.; Huang, L.; Finlay, R. J.; Her, T.-H.; Callan, J. P.; Mazur, E. (1996). "Three-dimensional optical storage inside transparent materials". Optics Letters. 21 (24): 2023–2025. Bibcode:1996OptL...21.2023G. doi:10.1364/OL.21.002023. ISSN 0146-9592. PMID 19881880.
  15. ^ Watanabe, Mitsuru; Juodkazis, Saulius; Sun, Hong-Bo; Matsuo, Shigeki; Misawa, Hiroaki; Miwa, Masafumi; Kaneko, Reizo (1999). "Transmission and photoluminescence images of three-dimensional memory in vitreous silica". Applied Physics Letters. 74 (26): 3957–3959. Bibcode:1999ApPhL..74.3957W. doi:10.1063/1.124235. ISSN 0003-6951.
  16. ^ Youngblood, Tim (20 February 2016). "5D Data Storage, How Does it Work and When Can We Use it?". All About Circuits. Retrieved 2 September 2019.
  17. ^ "Optical 'Superman' memory flies with orbiting Tesla". Optics. 7 February 2018. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  18. ^ Shimotsuma, Yasuhiko; Sakakura, Masaaki; Kazansky, Peter G.; Beresna, Martynas; Qiu, Jiarong; Miura, Kiyotaka; Hirao, Kazuyuki (2010). "Ultrafast Manipulation of Self-Assembled Form Birefringence in Glass". Advanced Materials. 22 (36): 4039–4043. doi:10.1002/adma.201000921. ISSN 0935-9648. PMID 20734374. S2CID 205237009.
  19. ^ Beresna, Martynas; Gecevičius, Mindaugas; Kazansky, Peter G.; Taylor, Thomas; Kavokin, Alexey V. (2012). "Exciton mediated self-organization in glass driven by ultrashort light pulses" (PDF). Applied Physics Letters. 101 (5): 053120. Bibcode:2012ApPhL.101e3120B. doi:10.1063/1.4742899. ISSN 0003-6951.
  20. ^ Zhang, Jingyu; Gecevičius, Mindaugas; Beresna, Martynas; Kazansky, Peter G. (2014). "Seemingly Unlimited Lifetime Data Storage in Nanostructured Glass". Physical Review Letters. 112 (3): 033901. Bibcode:2014PhRvL.112c3901Z. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.112.033901. ISSN 0031-9007. PMID 24484138.
  21. ^ Kazansky, Peter; Cerkauskaite, Ausra; Drevinskas, Rokas (June 2016). "Optical memory enters 5D realm". Physics World.
  22. ^ Klotzbach, Udo; Washio, Kunihiko; Arnold, Craig B.; Zhang, J.; Čerkauskaitė, A.; Drevinskas, R.; Patel, A.; Beresna, M.; Kazansky, P. G. (2016). "Eternal 5D data storage by ultrafast laser writing in glass". In Klotzbach, Udo; Washio, Kunihiko; Arnold, Craig B (eds.). Laser-based Micro- and Nanoprocessing X. Proceedings of SPIE. Vol. 9736. pp. 97360U. doi:10.1117/12.2220600. ISSN 0277-786X. S2CID 123893150.
  23. ^ Szondy, David (13 February 2018). "Tesla Roadster carries Asimov sci-fi classic to the stars". New Atlas. Retrieved 13 February 2018.

External links[edit]