Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Explosive Data Storage

The need for information storage is exploding. Now some Harvard University researchers are taking that idea literally. They are using an extremely fast laser to trigger tiny explosions that create “microcraters” to encode data.

Physics professor Eric Mazur uses red laser pulses lasting a mere 100 femtoseconds to explode glass and other translucent materials. One femtosecond is a billionth of a millionth of a second; there are as many femtoseconds in a second as there are minutes in the age of the universe.

Mazur’s graduate student Chris Schaffer took the concept a step further, building a laser that can fire every 40 billionths of a second to create layer after layer of microcraters, much like the pits that provide storage on a CD-ROM-but with the third dimension yielding a 100-fold boost in information density. Harvard has patented this potential application of microexplosions for data storage. Other possible uses: eye surgery and optical computing, where the microblasts could carve tiny spaces required to engineer optical circuits.

Blockchain is changing how the world does business, whether you’re ready or not. Learn from the experts at Business of Blockchain 2019.

Register now
Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Print Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.