The amount of data that can be stored has increased enormously since IBM introduced the world’s first commercial computer capable of storing 5MB of data on a 24-inch diameter magnetic disk drive back in 1956. But despite the technological developments, it is still difficult to store data for a long period of time on disk. All CDs, DVDs or HDDs have limited life.
Current hard disk drives can store vast amounts of data but the stored information is lost eventually. Scientists have been looking for ways to retain the information longer.
Researcher Jeroen de Vries from the University of Twente in the Netherlands has built a disc capable of storing data that may just last longer than the human race. The disc will be able to store data for even more than 1 million years.
The chosen information carrier is a wafer consisting of tungsten encapsulated by silicon nitride. Tungsten can withstand extreme temperatures. A QR code is etched into the tungsten and is protected by the nitride. Each pixel of the large QR code contains a smaller QR code that in turn stores different information.
To prove that the data is still legible after millions of years, an aging test was conducted. There was no visible degradation of tungsten after the tests and it was still easy to read the information. The University of Twente released this video to help explain its team’s thought process and testing methods: