By John Hutchinson

PUBLISHED:15:13 EST, 27  September 2012| UPDATED:15:18 EST, 27 September 2012

Breakthrough: A woman holds up Hitachi's newly unveiled quartz glass plate technology, which can be used for the indefinite storage of data
Breakthrough: A woman holds up Hitachi’s newly unveiled  quartz glass plate technology, which can be used for the indefinite storage of  data

The developments in recent years of file  storage have moved from the physical to the electronic, yet the problems of  damage and loss still persist.

However, Hitachi have developed what could be  a foolproof giant in the world of file storage, with a piece of  glass.

The company unveiled a method of storing  digital information on slivers of quartz glass that can endure extreme  temperatures and hostile conditions without degrading, almost  forever.

‘The volume of data being created every day  is exploding, but  in terms of keeping it for later generations, we haven’t  necessarily  improved since the days we inscribed things on stones,’ Hitachi  researcher Kazuyoshi Torii said.

‘The possibility of losing information may  actually have increased,’  he said, noting the life of digital media currently  available — CDs and hard drives — is limited to a few decades or a century at  most.

Hitachi’s new technology stores data in  binary form by creating dots inside a thin sheet of quartz glass, which can be  read with an  ordinary optical microscope.

Provided a computer with the know-how to  understand that binary is  available — simple enough to programme, no matter  how advanced  computers become — the data will always be readable.

The chip, which is resistant to many  chemicals and unaffected by radio waves, can be exposed directly to high  temperature flames and heated to 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,832 Fahrenheit) for at  least two hours without being damaged.

It is also waterproof, meaning it could  survive natural calamities, such as fires and tsunami.

‘We believe data will survive unless this  hard glass is broken,’ said senior researcher Takao Watanabe.

Complicated? The glass stores binary data by using a laser beam to create dots which can then be read using an optical microscope connected to a monitor device with data reading softwareComplicated? The glass stores binary data by using a  laser beam to create dots which can then be read using an optical microscope  connected to a monitor device with data reading software

The material currently has four layers of  dots, which can hold 40 megabytes per square inch, approximately the density on  a music CD, researchers said, adding they believe adding more layers should not  be a problem.

Hitachi have not decided when to put the chip  to practical use but researchers said they could start with storage services for  government agencies, museums and religious organisations.

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