Superman’s memory crystals become a reality

THE recording of computer data has evolved over the years and the next step is ‘glass memory’. Laser beams have been used to alter glass and make it possible to store memory inside, just like Superman’s memory crystals in his Fortress of Solitude.

The process works by putting tiny dots called ‘voxels’ into pure silica glass which changes the way light moves through it. These voxels can then be read using an optical decoder.

Information can be written, wiped and rewritten into the molecular structure of the glass using a laser, the scientists claim. The glass memory will be able to store much more than conventional hard drives and less prone to overheating or damage, scientists say. The glass cards can store up to 50GB of data at the moment.

This is the equivalent of a whole Blu-ray disc on a tiny round flat disc about twice the diameter of a thumb nail. They can also withstand temperatures of up to 982 degrees Celsius, is unaffected by water and last for thousands of years without loosing information.

Current hard-drive memory has a limited lifespan of a couple of decades and is vulnerable to damage from high temperatures and moisture. “We have developed this memory which means data can be stored on the glass and last for ever, said Lead research Martynas Beresna, of Southampton University‘s optoelectronics research centre.

“It could become a very stable and safe form of portable memory. It could be very useful for organisations with big archives. At the moment companies have to back up their archives every five to ten years because hard-drive memory has a relatively short lifespan.”

The researchers are now working with a Lithuanian company to market the crystals.

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