Scientists in Australia have devised what they claim is a form of storage technology involving nano-sized crystals of salt encoded with data using lasers.
Project leader, Dr Nick Riesen, along with University of Adelaide PhD student, Xuanzhao Pan, developed the technology by basing it on nanocrystals with light-emitting properties, which can be switched on and off in patterns that represent digital information.
The researchers also used lasers to alter the electronic states, and therefore the fluorescence properties, of the crystals.
"With the use of data in society increasing dramatically due to the likes of social media, cloud computing and increased smartphone adoption, existing data storage technologies such as hard drive disks and solid-state storage are fast approaching their limits," explained Riesen.
"We have entered an age where new technologies are required to meet the demands of hundreds of a terabyte or even petabyte storage. One of the most promising techniques of achieving this is optical data storage."
According to the team, the research shows that these fluorescent nanocrystals could represent a promising alternative to traditional magnetic - or hard drive disk - and solid-state data storage or blu-ray discs. They demonstrated rewritable data storage in crystals that are 100s of times smaller than that visible with the human eye.
"What makes this technique for storing information using light interesting is that several bits can be stored simultaneously. And, unlike most other optical data storage techniques, the data is rewritable," added Riesen.
The scientists also believe the technology has the potential to push forward the boundaries of how much digital data can be stored through the development of 3D data storage.
"We think it's possible to extend this data storage platform to 3D technologies in which the nanocrystals would be embedded into a glass or polymer, making use of the glass-processing capabilities we have at IPAS," added Professor Heike Ebendorff-Heidepriem, from the University of Adelaide.
"This project shows the far-reaching applications that can be achieved through transdisciplinary research into new materials."
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