Feb 19, 2016 I Paul Seaburn

Save Your Data for a Billion Years on New Glass Discs

If you think your descendants a billion years from now would love to post (or however they put stuff on the Internet a billion years from now) your selfies, cat pictures and silly memes on Throwback Thursday, here’s some good news. Scientists have developed a glass disc that can store 360 terabytes of your precious data for 13.8 billion years.

The research was done at the University of Southampton where scientists from the Optoelectronics Research Centre say they used femtosecond laser writing on nanostructured glass to store massive amounts of five dimensional (5D) digital data that can be retrieved successfully billions of years from now. The glass disc is virtually indestructible at room temperature and can withstand heat of up to 1,000°C without data loss.


For those not up-to-date on this technology and terminology, femtosecond laser writing uses ultrashort pulse lasers operating at femtosecond speed, which is one quadrillionth, or one millionth of one billionth, of a second. Nanostructured glass is made from nanoscale materials (thickness between 0.1 and 100 nm – a nanometer is one billionth of a meter) which allow laser manipulation at the atomic level. Five dimensional (5D) digital data adds size and orientation to the other three dimensions. Three-hundred-sixty terabytes is the storage capacity of 14,400 single-layer blu-ray discs. Thirteen billion years is a long, long time.

Who needs this type of storage? According to the press release:

As a very stable and safe form of portable memory, the technology could be highly useful for organizations with big archives, such as national archives, museums and libraries, to preserve their information and records.

The researchers claim they’ve demonstrated the capability of the technology by storing copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Newton's Opticks, the Magna Carta and the Kings James Bible on a medium “that could survive the human race.” This may happen sooner than 13 billion years from now and why would the replacement for humans want that stuff anyway?

16 23 UN UDoHR 570x567
The entire Universal Declaration of Human Rights on a glass disc

Still, it’s fascinating technology that’s being compared to the “memory crystals” in the Superman movies.

With what most of us store today, a more appropriate movie title to describe this technology might be The Eternal Storage of the Pointless Meme.


Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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