The University of Southampton

Our 5D storage crystal joins Tesla Roadster on incredible space journey

Published: 8 February 2018
Illustration
5D data storage memory crystals

The successful launch of the new rocket, the Falcon Heavy, by SpaceX from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida into a Mars orbit around the Sun, has captured the world’s imagination and attention mainly because of its power but also because of its payload.

Famously aboard the spacecraft is a Tesla Roadster, owned by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, but joining the bright red sports car on its journey around our solar system is the Arch Library, created using 5D optical storage technology developed by Professor Peter Kazansky and his team at the University of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Centre.

This first Arch library (pronounced Ark) – known as the Solar Library - contains the Foundation Trilogy of science fiction books written by Elon Musk’s favourite American author, Isaac Asimov. Archs are the vision of the Arch Mission Foundation which wants to permanently preserve and disseminate human knowledge as part of an ‘Encyclopedia Galactica’ across time and space for the benefit of future generations. Over the last few years, scientists at the ORC have made a major step forward in the development of digital data storage that is capable of surviving for billions of years. Using nanostructured glass, they have developed the recording and retrieval processes of five dimensional (5D) digital data by femtosecond laser writing.

Professor Peter Kazansky, ORC and Arch Mission advisor, said: “This is major step forward for humankind and I am delighted that the ORC is part of this mission. It is visionary projects like this that help us push forward with research and development into 5D data storage with even greater data capacity.”

The storage allows unprecedented properties in terms of data data capacity, thermal stability up to 1,000°C and virtually unlimited lifetime at room temperature opening a new era of ‘eternal’ data archiving. The technology was first experimentally demonstrated in 2013 when a 300 kB digital copy of a text file was successfully recorded in 5D.

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

This Arch Library is the second in a series of five (the first resides in Elon Musk’s personal library) and are two of the longest-lasting storage objects ever created by humans, and the product of decades of work by Professor Kazansky and the ORC to invent a new form of storage capable of serving the needs of the growth of big data. The Arch Mission plans to launch more Arch libraries into orbit in the future to create a ring of knowledge around the sun.

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