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"Eternal" 5D Quartz media could be the distant successor of Blu-ray

5D Quartz storage

The news made the headlines a few days ago: a team of scientists at the University of Southampton managed to produce a support, 5D or Superman memory crystal, that has a shelf-life of nearly 14 billion years and can store up to 360TB of data.

During an email exchange with, some members of the team that worked on the project were happy to share some more details about the expectations and the technical challenges that they faced.

The current achievable density stands at "several TB" per disc, each disc being 120mm in diameter with a 1.2mm thickness. Assuming that there's no holes in the middle, that translates into a storage density of at least 221GB per cubic centimetre - assuming a capacity of 3TB.

That capacity is expected to grow to 20TB by 2018 and ultimately reaching 360TB. In comparison, popular tape format LTO is expected to reach 12TB by 2018 (LTO-8), 24TB in 2020 and 48TB by 2022.

Ausra Cerkauskaite from UoS's Optoelectronics Research Centre added that "he speed of data storage and retrieval is limited by the physical parameters of the write/read-out drives".

The highest speed achieved with the current setup is 6KB/s, several orders of magnitude smaller than current mainstream storage devices and do require a microscope to read the data.

However, Cerkauskaite remains convinced that given investor support, the development of microscope-free systems could make 5D a "reasonable" alternative to Blu-ray discs.

Desire Athow

Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology in a career spanning four decades. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global techfests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. He has an affinity for anything hardware and staunchly refuses to stop writing reviews of obscure products or cover niche B2B software-as-a-service providers.