Mind & Matter


Silicon Glass Storage

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Optical vortex converter for data storage on silicon glass, the University of Southamption.


According to PC Advisor, nearly 300 exabytes of data were being stored globally in 2007. Not only is this a bewildering amount of information, but the quantity of stored data is accelerating rapidly. 300 exabytes is 60 times the amount of new information that was stored in 2002. It is also equivalent to 30 million new libraries, each containing digital versions of the complete U.S. Library of Congress print collection.

Quality is another matter when it comes to data storage. Storage media become obsolete quickly, and archivists are increasingly concerned about reliable, long-term storage.

Scientists from the University of Southamption have developed a potential solution to this need, in the form of silicon glass. The research team has created what are termed “monolithic glass space-variant polarization converters,” which are imprinted on silicon glass. The converters modify the polarization of short-pulse laser beams, which print “voxels”—tiny dots akin to three-dimensional pixels—within the silicon glass.

Remarkably, these voxels can be continuously modified without degradation throughout the life of the material (the scientists claim that the time frame is forever). The research team is now collaborating with Altechna to bring this enduring optical storage technology to market.



Comments (1 Total)

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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.