Diamonds are forever – but what about your data?

Data center hardware connected to a diamond by lasers

Posted on Thursday, November 10, 2016

The quest for new methods to store vast amounts of data has finally entered the realms of science fiction. According to researchers at the City College of New York, diamonds are set to a become a data storage medium in future.

Complex crystallography and lasers

Some time ago scientists realised that diamonds contain flaws on the atomic level. Electron microscope scans of the gemstone revealed “vacancies” in its lattice structure where a carbon atom (the chemical component of diamonds) was missing – even in lab-created stones.

They also noticed that these vacancies were sometimes accompanied by a nitrogen atom creating a “nitrogen vacancy”. These nitrogen vacancies have a tendency to trap “spare” electrons – which is where the data storage properties of diamonds start to reveal themselves.

Using red and green lasers, researchers have been able to trap and eject electrons from nitrogen vacancies at will. A trapped electron in one of these vacancies can then be treated like a “bit” of data.

You can read more of the specifics behind diamond data storage at Science Rocks My World.

A potentially huge storage capacity

Initial tests suggest that diamonds offer approximately 100 times the bit density of current DVD technologies. This means a 4.7Gb DVD can be encoded into a gem roughly 1% of the size/space. Experiments with 3-D storage suggest that the maximum theoretical capacity may be even higher.

Obviously diamond storage is still a technology in its infancy. Currently limitations indicated that using gems to save data will be best suited to archive storage applications; once the all-important electron has been trapped, it maintains state virtually forever.

The ultimate small form factor archive storage device?

Conceivably diamonds could become part of the tiered storage behind an SDS platform. And with potentially massive capacity gains, the amount of data that can be stored grows exponentially.

Diamonds may provide the archive capacity solution CTOs have been waiting for. At some point in the future legacy tape libraries and similar could conceivably be replaced with gemstone-based devices. Which means that the data is always online and accessible without consuming a huge sections of data center real estate.

Scientists are becoming increasingly creative with their efforts to solve the data storage problem. And it could be that diamonds are about to become the CTO’s best friend.

For more help and advice on tiered storage and SDS now, please get in touch.