Breakthrough: A woman holds up Hitachi’s newly unveiled quartz glass plate technology, which can be used for the indefinite storage of data
The developments in recent years of file storage have moved from the physical to the electronic, yet the problems of damage and loss still persist.
However, Hitachi have developed what could be a foolproof giant in the world of file storage, with a piece of glass.
The company unveiled a method of storing digital information on slivers of quartz glass that can endure extreme temperatures and hostile conditions without degrading, almost forever.
‘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.
‘The possibility of losing information may actually have increased,’ he said, noting the life of digital media currently available — CDs and hard drives — is limited to a few decades or a century at most.
Hitachi’s new technology stores data in binary form by creating dots inside a thin sheet of quartz glass, which can be read with an ordinary optical microscope.
Provided a computer with the know-how to understand that binary is available — simple enough to programme, no matter how advanced computers become — the data will always be readable.
The chip, which is resistant to many chemicals and unaffected by radio waves, can be exposed directly to high temperature flames and heated to 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,832 Fahrenheit) for at least two hours without being damaged.
It is also waterproof, meaning it could survive natural calamities, such as fires and tsunami.
‘We believe data will survive unless this hard glass is broken,’ said senior researcher Takao Watanabe.
The material currently has four layers of dots, which can hold 40 megabytes per square inch, approximately the density on a music CD, researchers said, adding they believe adding more layers should not be a problem.
Hitachi have not decided when to put the chip to practical use but researchers said they could start with storage services for government agencies, museums and religious organisations.