The world is producing an insane amount of data every year. And they will be more and more. Transport, diagnostics, communications. Everything will pass from the data. To give you some clues, International Data Corp expects the world to produce 175 zettabytes of data by 2025. That is 142 zettabytes more, almost double the data produced worldwide in 2018. For the less accustomed: 1 zettabyte equals to 1 billion terabytes or 1 trillion gigabytes.
Needless to say, memorizing these data it is not an easy task and goes far beyond the scope of available storage devices such as hard drives and magnetic disks. The memory of the future will have to take into account the huge volumes, and also the need for adequate resilience, to avoid the loss of so much data.
The memory of the future
Motivated by this undoubted global need, scientists are now exploring alternative materials for making storage devices. And one of the more promising materials they're looking at is glass, or to be more precise a 2mm thick sheet of glass that's roughly the size of a post-it note.
This concept had mostly remained confined to pure theory until Microsoft, as part of its Silica project, wrote and recovered the movie Superman (1978) on a single small piece of glass. A symbolic film, of course, because it told of how memories could be preserved in crystals. This method can be used to store up to 360 terabytes of data on a disc the size of a DVD, and is the embryo of the memory of the future.
Not just Microsoft
Microsoft is not alone in this research. Also Seagate is working on the use of glass for optical data storage. "The challenge is to develop systems that can read and write with reasonable throughput"Said John Morris, Seagate Chief Technology Officer.
At the moment, the challenge is not only to make the writing process more feasible, but also to simplify the writing process.
"The writing process is difficult to make reliable and repeatable, and it is difficult to minimize the time it takes to create a voxel ... The reading process was a challenge in understanding how to read the data from the glass using the minimum possible signal", stated at the publication Ant Rowstron, deputy director of the Microsoft Research Lab in Cambridge.