Researchers at Southampton University have devised a way to bend light passing through a glass wafer so it can store and read 50GB of data in the same way that fiber optic cable does.
The process uses minuscule dots called voxels etched in the molecular structure of pure silica glass that bend light to store information (the light itself changes direction as it passes through one depending on the light's polarization orientation.) The data can then be wiped and rewritten by re-etching the voxels.
Glass has a lot of advantages over other non-volatile memory. In particular, it can withstand temperatures up to 1800F and, since the etchings are located within the structure of the glass itself, the information lasts quite literally forever with no noticeable data degradation.
As research team member, Martynas Beresna, said:
We have developed this memory which means data can be stored on the glass and last forever. It could become a very stable and safe form of portable memory. It could be very useful for organizations with big archives. At the moment companies have to back up their archives every five to ten years because hard-drive memory has a relatively short lifespan.
Other uses include cheaper and more compact medical imaging, precise manipulation of atom-sized objects, and even high-resolution imaging far beyond what we see today. Great, now I have to copy my CD's—yet again—to a new format. But hey, should be the last time, right?