The need for new data storage technology is more pressing than ever, and researchers from around the world are working hard to find innovative solutions to a constantly worsening problem. Corporations and government entities need new, more secure, and more space-efficient ways to store an ever-increasing amount of data. This had led research teams to investigate new methods for printing data on new materials and in new spaces. Here’s an overview of some of the most creative and futuristic ideas currently being worked on in the data storage field.
1. Underwater Solutions
Microsoft is one of the main sources of funding for research and development in the data storage industry. As a result, it’s become associated with some of the most jaw-dropping ideas for data storage, not the least of which is the idea of keeping its data centers underwater. The initiative, titled Project Natick, involves enclosing data servers in watertight capsules and sinking them in the Pacific Ocean just off the coast of Washington. One 38,000-pound steel container filled with a data center equipped with the computing power of 300 desktop PCs has already been tested; after leaving the data center underwater for two months, it was brought back to the surface fully functional. Microsoft has yet to create solid plans for more underwater data centers, but the project’s success certainly leaves the door open for more experimentation.
Iceland has revealed that it’s developing a concept for a data-storing skyscraper to be designed and located within its boundaries. The building would be a giant cylindrical motherboard with a hollow center for air flow and cooling. The country has a strong enough renewable energy infrastructure to make it possible for the tower to be powered completely sustainably, yet another factor that helped win the design third place in the eVolo Skyscraper competition.
3. 5D Storage
A research team from the University of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Center (ORC) has put together a prototype the size of a quarter that can hold a whopping 360 terabytes of data and withstand heat up to 374 degrees Fahrenheit. The drive’s data storage occurs in five dimensions and is embedded in nanostructures that exist within glass discs. According to the team, their invention could keep data safe for up to 13.8 billion years i.e. the age of the universe.
Back in 2012, electronics leader Hitachi created a 5D glass data storage device that could pack 40 megabytes of info into a one-square-inch piece of quartz glass. Each square is no more than two millimeters thick but can hold the same amount of data as a CD and can be brought to extreme heat without corruption. The data requires an optical microscope to be retrieved and remains transparent regardless of how much data is etched into it.
5. Floating Cantilevers
A research team that involved scientists from Scotland and South Korea created a proof of concept for a method of data storage that relies on a floating cantilever and could work for mobile devices. The cantilever is self-propelled and works in reaction to electrical currents within the device. This ultimately converts electrical information into binary code, allowing for data to be stored and retrieved faster and more energy efficiently than existing technology.
6. Abandoned Mines
Part of the data storage problem is finding a place for all this information to be stored. Some researchers have approached the problem by looking for ways to make data storage require less space. Others have simply looked for more spaces to store data. One idea is to use abandoned limestone mines across the country as places to create underground data centers. The mines would remain cool and have consistent humidity levels, two factors that above ground data centers expend huge amounts of energy to maintain.