Fused Silica Is Ideal for Long-Term Data Storage

Anyone hoping to store data for a million years just needs fused silica. Read on to find out more.

Material degradation has always been a problem for long-term storage of digital data. The development of a fused silica device now means that such data could be stored safely for over one million years.


Developed at the Kyoto University School of Engineering in Japan, this is a device made up of 100 separate layers of fused silica glass. This has a recording capacity similar to Blu-Ray but can be stored for millions of years.


This fused silica technology works by reducing the noise and interference in the data stored in the various layers. It can store data in each layer by adjusting the focal point of a laser.


The advantage of this type of technical ceramic is that it is highly resistant to heat and water. This makes it a very promising storage medium for long-term historical data, including all manner of personal or public documentation that individuals or institutions or local authorities would like to store for many generations. The data on the product designed by Hitachi and Kyoto University was able to be read even after the ceramic was heated to a temperature of 1,000 degrees Celsius for two hours.


Research into the 100-layer storage was pioneered by Hitachi in 2009. At first problems occurred with data quality degradation, and there was a substantial amount of crosstalk between data on the separate layers.


When Kyoto University was brought into the programme, engineers developed a technology to reduce this noise. The device now consists of 50 layers of the silica ceramic with 60 microns of spacing between each layer. Recording can be done on both sides of the layers, giving 100 in all.


It has a recording density of 1.5 gigabytes per square inch – similar to Blu-Ray but obviously longer-lasting. Engineers believe that there is a potential to develop new devices with a larger number of layers.


Such a fused silica lithograph was used as a part of the miniature payload in the Hayabusa 2 asteroid explorer launched in December 2014 by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) that is scheduled to arrive at the 1999 JU asteroid in mid-2018.


It will stay there for one and a half years and leave a message that engineers hope will last 300 million years, depending on the lifespan of the asteroid. Hayabusa 2 will return to Earth around 2020.


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