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Crystals Hold Super Computer Key.

BBC News (10/18/09)

University of Edinburgh researchers used low-energy lasers to make salt crystals in gel, which could make it possible to store a terabyte of data in a space the size of a sugar cube within the next 10 years. The researchers focused two overlapping low-energy laser beams on a salt solution, which provided the exact right amount of energy to form a temporary crystal. Edinburgh professor Andy Alexander says the process could be used to improve on traditional methods of optical data storage such as CDs. In comparison to the two-dimensional surface of a CD, three-dimensional (3D) optical data storage contains far more layers, and tiny crystals could act as storage points. Information would be stored by making marks in a pattern and read using light. Alexander says that 3D, crystal-based devices could be available within 10 years and would enable users to easily store, access, and move massive amounts of data. “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,” he says. “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.”

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