The University of Southampton

Eternal 5D storage preserves Magna Carta for humanity

Published: 15 June 2016

Researchers from the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) at the University of Southampton are to present the Magna Carta preserved on a 5D digital data storage to dignitaries at Salisbury Cathedral this evening to mark the anniversary of the day King John sealed the document over 800 years ago.

The 5D data storage uses technology that stores vast amounts of data in the volume of nanopatterned glass that is capable of surviving for billions of years.

The presentation is to be made at Salisbury Cathedral by renowned photonics pioneer, Professor Sir David Payne ahead of the debate hosted at the cathedral: 'Christian Perspectives on the European Union – how do we decide?' The event coincides with the very day 801 years ago that Magna Carta was sealed by King John.

Professor Peter Kazansky, lead researcher on the 5D storage technology project at the ORC, explains the reasons behind the gift: “A one-inch glass disc is inscribed with both Latin and English versions of the Magna Carta. We have created the technology to preserve vital documents and store them for unlimited periods for future generations. It is a thrilling prospect to gift Salisbury Cathedral this ‘eternal’ copy of the Magna Carta on the anniversary of the day King John sealed it 801 years ago. This technology now archives one of the most significant historical documents known to the human race: all we’ve learnt will not be forgotten.”

The gift was made possible thanks to pioneering work at The University of Southampton. Scientists from the ORC have made a breakthrough opening a new era of eternal data archiving. Their pioneering research into a ‘5D’ optical storage has for the first time created a way to retain immense quantities of data - up to 360 TB of data on a single CD sized disc; more than 7,000 times more than today’s 50-gigabyte double-layer Blu-ray capacity for 13.8 billion years.

The 5D storage has extremely high data stability as the information is recorded within structural modifications in fused quartz glass, one of the most chemically and thermally durable materials on Earth. The discs can withstand fire and temperatures of up to 1000deg C (1832deg F). The glass can withstand direct impact of up to ½ ton.

Superman memory crystal
The work has the potential to transform the way that organisations store and archive their material. For organisations that have to back up their archives every five to ten years because hard-drive memory has a relatively short lifespan, 5D optical storage - dubbed the Superman memory crystal - could be the answer.

The technology was first experimentally demonstrated in 2013 when a 300 kb digital copy of a text file was successfully recorded in 5D. Now, major documents from human history such as Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Newton’s Opticks and King James Bible, have been saved as digital copies that could survive the human race.

A copy of the UDHR encoded to 5D data storage was presented to UNESCO by the ORC at the International Year of Light (IYL) closing ceremony in Mexico earlier this year.

Professor Kazansky added: "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. The potential is unlimited."

Find out more about this research: contact Professor Peter G. Kazansky, tel 023 8059 3083, email pgk@soton.ac.uk

Learn more about the Magna Carta

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