Miniscule crystals could be used to store data


Boffins have achieved a computing breakthrough that could allow one terabyte of data to be stored in the space taken up by a sugar cube.

The development has come about through research at the University of Edinburgh whose scientists have used low-energy lasering to form gel-based salt crystals that could pave the way for small optical storage devices in the future.

Indeed, if the technique was widely used, it could be an innovative way to make desktop computers hold 100 times more data than they do now.

It could become a reality within the next decade and be used to enhance optical data storage mediums such as CDs, according to the university.

"This research builds on a discovery that was made by accident many years ago, when it was found that light can be used to trigger crystal formation," said Dr Andy Alexander of the university's School of Chemistry, in a statement.

"We have refined this technique and now we can create crystals on demand. There is much work to be done before these crystals can be used in practical applications such as optical storage, but we believe they have significant potential."

Historically, the art of making crystals has baffled many scientists as the process is hard to control. The university's researchers overcame this by overlapping low-energy laser beams to provide just what was needed to create a temporary crystal.

Maggie Holland

Maggie has been a journalist since 1999, starting her career as an editorial assistant on then-weekly magazine Computing, before working her way up to senior reporter level. In 2006, just weeks before ITPro was launched, Maggie joined Dennis Publishing as a reporter. Having worked her way up to editor of ITPro, she was appointed group editor of CloudPro and ITPro in April 2012. She became the editorial director and took responsibility for ChannelPro, in 2016.

Her areas of particular interest, aside from cloud, include management and C-level issues, the business value of technology, green and environmental issues and careers to name but a few.