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OPLIN 4cast #536: Data storage excitement

Posted in 4cast

The recent thread on the OPLINTECH list about solid state vs mechanical drives in computers is a reminder that the traditional methods of storing data in use for decades are being replaced by newer technologies. As our data gets bigger and bigger, researchers are exploring a number of ways to store more data more efficiently, increasing both the storage capacity and the longevity of storage when compared to current technologies. Here are just four examples of the interesting research underway that could transform the ways we store data.

  • What is holographic data storage? ( | Katie Musselwhite)  “Holographic data storage or ‘three-dimensional data storage’ is quite simple in concept, though the execution of such an idea is quite complex. Right now the optical data storage potential is limited to the surface area of the recording device. A CD can only hold as much as can physically be written to the disc, and a DVD (though more efficient and double-sided) faces the same limitations. Holographic memory seeks to go beyond that limiting factor of surface area and store exponentially more data in the same area.”
  • Magnetic storage reaches the atomic level (Ars Technica | Shalini Saxena)  “Having a bit stored indefinitely usually involves a cluster of atoms all set to the same state. This provides a bigger signal, ensuring the bit is maintained even if any given atom doesn’t behave stably. So, while there were many advances in the miniaturization of magnetic bistability, there were some obvious questions about the limits it could reach. In this investigation, scientists worked with holmium atoms (Ho) supported on magnesium oxide (MgO). Although many Ho atoms formed clusters on the surface, the researchers identified single atoms located atop oxygen to use as a magnetic storage material.”
  • Eternal storage? With Superman Crystals, quartz you can! (Heat Street | James Bagshawe)  “They have nicknamed the process ‘Superman Crystals’ after the iconic use of crystals that contained memories and powers in the movies and comics. The earthbound version can store a pretty hefty 360TB of data on a quartz disc that’s roughly the same size as a large coin. As well as storing data, you can also use a laser to etch a pretty pattern into your disc. Or, as is more likely, a boring but functional reference value.”
  • DNA could store all of the world’s data in one room (Science | Robert Service)  “They started with six files, including a full computer operating system, a computer virus, an 1895 French film called Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat, and a 1948 study by information theorist Claude Shannon. They first converted the files into binary strings of 1s and 0s, compressed them into one master file, and then split the data into short strings of binary code. They devised an algorithm called a DNA fountain, which randomly packaged the strings into so-called droplets, to which they added extra tags to help reassemble them in the proper order later. In all, the researchers generated a digital list of 72,000 DNA strands, each 200 bases long.”

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