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Next-gen optical disk to solve data storage challenge

Using gold nanomaterials combined with a hybrid glass material, scientists from from RMIT University and the Wuhan Institute of Technology say they have demonstrated a new type of high-capacity optical disk that can hold data securely for more than 600 years. 

This gold-generated next-generation optical disk is said to have up to 10TB capacity - a storage leap of 400% and a six-century lifespan.

According to the team, it has the potential to offer a more cost-efficient and sustainable solution to the global data storage problem, while enabling the critical pivot from Big Data to Long Data.

The technology could radically improve the energy efficiency of data centres, which consume about 3% of the world's electricity supply and rely on hard disk drives that have limited capacity and lifespans.

The team says it can use 1000 times less power than a hard disk centre through less cooling and ridding energy-intensive task of data migration every two years. Optical disks are also more secure than hard disks, it adds.

Lead investigator, Professor Min Gu of RMIT University, said the research paves the way for the development of optical data centres to address both the world's data storage challenge and support the coming Long Data revolution.

"All the data we're generating in the Big Data era - over 2.5 quintillion bytes a day - has to be stored somewhere, but our current storage technologies were developed in different times," Gu explained.

"While optical technology can expand capacity, the most advanced optical disks developed so far have only 50-year lifespans.

"Our technique can create an optical disk with the largest capacity of any optical technology developed to date and our tests have shown it will last over half a millennium.”

"Long Data offers an unprecedented opportunity for new discoveries in almost every field - from astrophysics to biology, social science to business - but we can't unlock that potential without addressing the storage challenge," adds Dr Qiming Zhang of RMIT.

How it works

The researchers have demonstrated optical long data memory in a nanoplasmonic hybrid glass matrix, different to the conventional materials used in optical discs.

The team explained that it combined glass with an organic material, halving its lifespan but radically increasing capacity.

To create the nanoplasmonic hybrid glass matrix, gold nanorods were incorporated into an organic modified ceramic.

The researchers chose gold because like glass, it is robust and durable. Gold nanoparticles are said to let information to be recorded in five dimensions - the three dimensions in space, plus colour and polarisation.

The technique relies on a sol-gel process, which uses chemical precursors to produce ceramics and glasses with better purity and homogeneity than conventional processes.

Bethan Grylls

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