Superman's Memory Crystals Inch Closer to Reality

Hard drives could soon be made from glass
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 15, 2011 10:17 AM CDT
Updated Aug 20, 2011 1:00 PM CDT
Superman's Memory Crystals Inch Closer to Reality--as Glass Hard Drives
A sci-fi element of Superman comics may soon be reality.   (AP Photo/DC Comics)

The “memory crystals” Superman used to hear messages left by his parents are no longer just science fiction. Researchers in Britain have found a way to store computer data on glass by reorganizing its atoms. A laser creates miniscule dots, known as voxels, in silica glass. Light passing through the glass is thus polarized and can be read using special equipment, the Telegraph reports.

The method is much longer-lasting than current methods of storing data: Today's hard-drives can only survive for a matter of decades and are susceptible to heat and moisture. The glass can tolerate temperatures as high as 1,800 degrees, isn’t damaged by water, and can survive for millennia—and researchers have already been able to fit a Blu-ray disc’s worth of data, about 50GB, on a piece of glass the size of a cell-phone screen. “We have developed this memory which means data can be stored on the glass and last forever. It could become a very stable and safe form of portable memory,” a researcher says. (Read more Superman stories.)

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