Research team designs and builds a disk drive that stores data for a million years

By on October 22, 2013, 5:30 PM

A research team out of the Netherlands has produced a storage medium that can last a million years. Standard magnetic disk drive storage, which was introduced nearly 70 years ago by IBM, has improved significantly over the years in many ways, but the duration in which the data can be stored largely remained the same. Current disk drives offer about a decade of reliable data storage.

A research team at the University of Twente in the Netherlands claim they have designed and built a disk medium that is capable of reliably storing data for a million years, or even more. The team first needed a deep understanding of how information can become corrupt over time, and how to negate this process from happening. Technology Review breaks down the concept in which the research team based its design:

"This is based on the idea that data must be stored in an energy minimum that is separated from other minima by an energy barrier. So to corrupt data by converting a 0 to a 1, for example, requires enough energy to overcome this barrier... Some straightforward calculations reveal that to last a million years, the required energy barrier is 63 KBT or 70 KBT to last a billion years."

The team created a tungsten disk, struck with fine etched lines and coated in what is called silicon nitride (a chemical compound often used as an insulation or barrier in electronics circuits), that they claim has achieved this.

According to Arrhenius law, a disk capable of maintaing information for a million years would need to be able to withstand a temperature of 445 Kelvin for around one hour. So after putting the drive to the test, the team figured out that it was able to handle that temperature without any problems at all. In fact, it was able to withstand temperatures double that, but it did begin experiencing data loss at that point.

While theoretically the research does provide us with a plausible method of storing data for millennia, there are several caveats, such as serious natural disasters, that the technology obviously will not withstand.




User Comments: 8

Got something to say? Post a comment
JC713 JC713 said:

Oh man. This is just cool.

1 person liked this | LukeDJ LukeDJ said:

**** that, I don't want reptilian humanoids looking over the filth on my hard drive millions of years from now.

ypsylon said:

Bring it on. If it can survive well over 400K then it should survive accidental drops and other everyday annoyances.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Whats the point? Everything of importance will need to be maintained and copied to new media as it is invented. I highly doubt anyone reading storage one hundred years later, would know how to interpret the data anyway. All data will need to be converted as time goes on, in order to maintain interpretation capabilities.

Everyone storing their images as PCX, I wonder how much trouble they are having after only 20 years, viewing their files? Imagine how much more difficult it will be after another 20 years. For the images to survive, they need to be converted and stored again on current media and in current formats.

misor misor said:

One problem I found:

"The team created a tungsten disk, struck with fine etched lines and coated in what is called silicon nitride (a chemical compound often used as an insulation or barrier in electronics circuits), that they claim has achieved this."

to write something again to the tungsten disk, the user needs to scratch the silicon nitride coating and afterwards, re-coat it.

lol, creation of new job: silicon nitride painter.

misor misor said:

Whats the point? Everything of importance will need to be maintained and copied to new media as it is invented. I highly doubt anyone reading storage one hundred years later, would know how to interpret the data anyway. All data will need to be converted as time goes on, in order to maintain interpretation capabilities.

Everyone storing their images as PCX, I wonder how much trouble they are having after only 20 years, viewing their files? Imagine how much more difficult it will be after another 20 years. For the images to survive, they need to be converted and stored again on current media and in current formats.

batman etched his data on a metallic/steel material; that way, future arkham policemen find the way to defeat the reanimated dr. freeze.

t3chn0vamp said:

Great discovery but no use for a regular user. Make a drive that can last for 80-90 years.

RenGood08 RenGood08 said:

Wow...incredible stuff!

Load all comments...

Add New Comment

TechSpot Members
Login or sign up for free,
it takes about 30 seconds.
You may also...
Get complete access to the TechSpot community. Join thousands of technology enthusiasts that contribute and share knowledge in our forum. Get a private inbox, upload your own photo gallery and more.