No Kidding Here: This “Five-Dimensional” Glass Discs Can Store 360TB Data Up To 13.8 Billion Years

Storage hard drives eventually fester, photographs fade, books rot and microSD cards sucks and all this happens in a sort of time, which you should admit. But here we got something for you that aims and claims preserving humanity’s collective culture, when you take the long view isn’t a marathon. Researchers have developed a new optical data storage than can write 360TB on to a Quartz Disk. Believe it or not!


Scientists from the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom have indeed created a new data format that encodes information in tiny nanostructures in glass. A standard-sized five-dimensional disc, that can store around 360 terabytes of data, that too with an estimated lifespan of up to 13.8 billion years even at a temparature of 190°C. That’s as old as the Universe, and more than three times the age of the Earth.

Method called five-dimensional data storage and was actually first demonstrated in a paper in 2013. Since then, the enthusiasts behind it say they’ve technically perfected it and are now looking to move the technology forward and nevertheless even commercialize it.

In order to demonstrate the format’s virtues, the team from the University have created copies of the King James Bible, Isaac Newton’s Oticks, and the United Nations’ Universal Decleration of Human Rights, all presented to the UN earlier this month.

How could these five-demensional discs can store so much of information for such a long time is in question. Best part is to compare them to a regular CD. Data to read from a normal CD by shinning a laser at a tiny line with bumps in it. Whatever the laser hits the bumps, it’s reflected back and recorded as a 1; whenever there’s no bump, recorded as a 0. These are of course two dimensions of information – on or off – but from them, CDs can store anything such as music, books, images, videos, or even softwares. Because of this bumpy line is stored on the surface of the CD, it’s vulnerable. It can be eroded either by physical scratches and scuffs, or by heat, humidity or exposure to Oxygen.


The recording and retrieval process of the 5D digital data using nanostructured glass, scientists developed it by adding femtosecond laser writing. 5D discs, by comparison, store information within the intirior using tiny physical structures known as “nanogratings.” Much like bumpy line found in the CDs, but these can change how light is reflected, instead of doing so in just two “dimensions,” the reflected light encodes five – hence the name. Changes to the light can be read to obtain pieces of info about the nanograting’s orientation and the strength of the light it reflects, and its location in space on the x.y, and z axes. These additional dimensions are why 5D discs can store data so densely compared to a regular optical discs. Where Blu-Ray disc can hold up to 128GBs of data, and 5D disc of the same size could store nearly 3,000 times that of on iPhone storage: 360 terabytes of information and content.

As far as we speaking about 5D data storage, has potential as an archival format for museums and galleries but the scientists involved believe it could be also be commercialized in the not-too distant future. Discs can potentially last for so long because the glass is a touch material which needs a lot of heat to melt or wrap it, and it’s chemically stable enough. This evidently makes the 5D discs safe up to temperatures of 1,000°C, say the researchers.

The discs can be read relatively easily, with the team from Southampton suggesting the equivalent of a DVD player for 5D information could be developed in decades. While the expensive laser needed to fabricate the discs aren’t going to move out of the lab any time soon. “The concept and the development of it is ready to go,” says Patel. “It’s a matter of developing the technology so we can then make it readily available for commercial purposes.”

This new advance could be a game changer in the way we store our data not only capacity wise and also time wise, may show off this year.

(Source: Tiny 5D Data Storage Glass Disc By University of Southampton)