Feeds

Boffins build BEELLION-YEAR storage medium

Cat videos will outlast humanity if stored on Tungsten encapsulated by Silicon Nitride

Top three mobile application threats

Dutch and German boffins have proposed a write-once-read-many storage medium they say should survive for a million years and may be readable after a billion.

Described in a paper titled “Towards Gigayear Storage Using a Silicon-Nitride/Tungsten Based Medium”, available here, the five authors explain that in order to store data for a very, very, long time “a high energy barrier against erasure is required.”

Magnetic media, the paper points out, have a low energy barrier before the state of a bit changes.

“If the system would be kept at a temperature of 0K, there would be no thermal fluctuations and the system would stay in this state indefinitely,” the paper says. Storing disks at zero degrees kelvin is obviously not going to happen, so the boffins invoke “the Arrhenius law” to calculate how often state changes should occur under different circumstances and come up with a state change threshold of “1.8 eV at room temperature” as the value they suggest is needed in a million-year medium.

The boffins then go material hunting and suggest Tungsten as the medium as it has “a high melting temperature and high activation energy, furthermore it has a low thermal expansion coefficent.” which we take to mean it'll be hard to erase without a lot of energy and is so stable it won't change state in ambient temperatures.

Encapsulating the Tungsten in Silicon Nitride will help things along further, because the substance “has a high fracture toughness and low thermal expansion coefficient. Another important feature of the Si3N4 is its transparency to light. A very thin film would also be transparent to electron beams.”

We take that to mean it's also tough and stable stuff, isn't prone to accidental state changes and will allow the Tungsten on which data is written (through a process of creating ridges and peaks for zeroes and ones) to be read by a laser or some other optical gadgetry.

The paper goes on to explain some experiments conducted on the Tungsten/Silicon Nitride medium that show it is possible to write data to the Tungsten. The team also baked the medium for an hour at 473k, about 200 celsius, in an “accelerated ageing test”. The medium remained readable after that test and the authors extrapolate the results to suggest it would remain so at the rather tamer temperature of 300k (about 27 celsius) “for well over 1 million years”.

The boffins admit their work is preliminary and that further and more precise tests will be required before they can declare Tungsten/Silicon Nitride viable for a week, never mind aeons. Similar caveats are offered on just about every study The Reg finds at the intersection of material science and data storage. ®

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning
Power levels up 70 per cent as the rover keeps on truckin'
KILLER ROBOTS, DNA TAMPERING and PEEPING CYBORGS: the future looks bright!
Americans optimistic about technology despite being afraid of EVERYTHING
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.