New Nanostructured Glass Designed for Optical Computer Memory

[Photo: University of Southampton]
What's next for memory and flash storage? If University of Southampton researchers have any say in the matter, it might be...glass. The researchers have developed a new nanostructured glass that can funnel data like fiber-optic cables and could be a new type of computer memory.

A team led by Professor Peter Kazansky at the University’s Optoelectronics Research Centre, used nanostructures to develop new monolithic glass space-variant polarization converters.

Okay, what does that actually mean? Thanks to the millimeter design of these devices, light actually swirls in the glass, creating whirlpools of data that can be read as if they were passing through a fiber-optic cable. Information can be written, wiped and rewritten into the molecular structure of the glass using a laser. The ultra-short laser pulses are used to imprint tiny dots (like 3D pixels) called "voxels" in the glass.

The researchers say that the new device is 20-times smaller and cheaper to the existing methods for microscopy. "Before this we had to use a spatial light modulator based on liquid crystal which cost about £20,000 (roughly $34,750)," said Professor Peter Kazansky in the press release. "Instead we have just put a tiny device into the optical beam and we get the same result."

As of now, these optical memory discs are being used in the medical field for more precise laser material processing, optical manipulation of atom-sized objects, ultra-high resolution imaging and potentially, table-top particle accelerators. The researchers meanwhile are adapted the technology for five-dimensional optical recording, so data can be stored on the glass and last forever. Here’s hoping that it will trickle down to consumer computers one day.

[University of Southampton via Engadget]

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