The University of Southampton

Universal Declaration of Human Rights preserved to 5D optical memory

Published: 4 February 2016

Researchers from the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) at the University of Southampton have presented the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) encoded to 5D data storage to UNESCO at the International Year of Light (IYL) closing ceremony in Mexico.

The presentation was made to Dr Jean-Paul Ngome Abiaga on behalf of the Natural Sciences Sector of UNESCO during the official closing ceremony for the IYL held in Mérida, Mexico by Professor John Dudley, President of the European Physical Society and Chairman of the IYL Steering Committee and Professor Sir David Payne, ORC Director and Chair for the session.  

Professor Dudley said: “This technology has been one of the highlights of this year’s news events for the IYL. To see the Universal Declaration of Human Rights preserved in this form of infinite storage takes us into a new realm of understanding the role of light for the future of global society.”

Professor Payne explained the motivation behind the gift: “UNESCO’s International Year of Light has increased global public and political understanding of the central role of light in enhancing the human experience. We felt the gift document, encoded into a technology that is the epitome of the messaging for the IYL, promoting sustainable development, education and communication is a unique way to enshrine the Declaration.”

The pioneering research into 5D data storage, led by researchers from the ORC, has created a way to store immense quantities of data for millennia, and perhaps virtually forever, using glass nanostructured with ultrashort light pulses.

Professor Peter Kazansky, from the ORC and project lead, explains: “The 5D storage of the UDHR represents how light technologies enable humanity to share ideals and information, gain inspiration and provide hope. The Declaration is one of the first digital documents to be stored this way - it could survive the human race.

"It seems symbolic that Yucatan is the venue of the closing ceremony of the Year of Light: the Chicxulub crater was created 65 million years ago by the impact with asteroid 10 km in diameter. Our gift is the symbol of hope that, should this ever happen again in the future, everything we learned will not be forgotten. The ORC is proud that using laser technology has enabled a lasting legacy to be created for the benefit of all peoples and nations."

Currently in its infancy, 5D storage technology has the capability of storing up to 360 TB of data on a single disc; more than 7,000 times more than today’s 50-gigabyte double-layer Blu-ray capacity. In addition, the disc has thermal stability up to 1000°C (1832°F) and practically unlimited lifetime.

The technology has the potential to transform the way organisations store and archive their material, for example museums, national archives and universities who have huge numbers of precious and irreplaceable documents. For organisations that have to back up their archives every five to ten years, 5D memory glass - dubbed the Superman memory crystal - could be the answer.

If you are interested in collaborating with the ORC on developing this technology for commercialisation, please contact Professor Peter Kazansky on 023 8059 3083 or email

Articles that may also interest you

Share this article FacebookGoogle+TwitterWeibo

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.