Diamonds May Soon Be Your Data's Best Friend
Physicists are investigating the long-term data storage properties of diamonds.
We all know how important it is to back up our data. The more important the data is — family photos, legal documents, and so — the more critical it is to have a copy stashed away somewhere safe. Something we don't like to think about, though, is that our current storage media degrade over time. Hard drives, solid state drives, DVDs, you name it. For each and every one of us, a day is coming when we reach for data we can no longer retrieve. And as digital cameras and other devices continue to increase the amount of data we generate, finding ample storage space is an issue in the first place. Now the New York Times reports that physicists at City College of New York have released a paper that suggests storing our data in diamonds may be the solution. Diamonds don't degrade as other materials do, and even a tiny sliver of a diamond smaller than a grain of rice and thinner than paper can already hold a hundred times the data a DVD can.
It's a fascinating idea based on a diamond's imperfections. All diamonds have them, from the Zoe diamond to the ones you see in jewelry case at the mall.
Diamonds are made up of carbon, but occasionally a nitrogen atom will sneak into the diamond's molecular structure, creating a negatively charged "nitrogen vacancy center." If you remove a carbon atom next to the nitrogen atom, a space is left behind, ad it's this space in which data can be stored.
The paper's authors have already been testing how data can be stored in these empty cavities, like these grayscale photos of Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrödinger they "painted" using electrons.
(CARLOS A. MERILES AND SIDDHARTH DHOMKAR)
The presence of absence of an electron works much like the 1s and 0s of standard digital storage. To add and electron, they use a green laser; to remove one, they use red.
DVDs encodes a 0 as a depressions, or "pit," in its single surface. In diamond storage, though, electrons can be written in layers, allowing for much higher storage capacities. And, as any British secret agent knows, "diamonds are forever."
An issue with the medium is that, being light-based, a blast of strong sunlight might erasedata. This is obviously something that needs to be addressed. Otherwise, researchers have joked about a person carrying her wedding photos inside her engagement ring.
Also, of course, there's the issue of cost. A diamond of any kind can be used — it doesn't need to be an expensive one, though "the bigger the diamond, the more defects, the more places to put information," a grad student who worked on the paper, Jack Henshaw, told the Times. But still, it is diamonds we're talking about. Maybe the next study should look into storing data in a cubic zirconia.
What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.
- Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
- Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
- Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Normally, the landscape in this photo would be a white ice sheet.
- Climate scientists say that Greenland is experiencing ice losses that are unusually early and heavy.
- Two main weather factors are fueling the losses: a high-pressure system and the resulting low cloud cover.
- Greenland is a major contributor to sea-level rise.
One of Stephen Hawking's predictions seems to have been borne out in a man-made "black hole".
- Stephen Hawking predicted virtual particles splitting in two from the gravitational pull of black holes.
- Black holes, he also said, would eventually evaporate due to the absorption of negatively charged virtual particles.
- A scientist has built a black hole analogue based on sound instead of light.
It's a "canary in the coalmine," said one climate scientist.
- A team of researchers discovered that permafrost in Northern Canada is melting at unusually fast rates.
- This could causes dangerous and costly erosion, and it's likely speeding up climate change because thawing permafrost releases heat-trapping gasses into the atmosphere.
- This week, Canada's House of Commons declared a national climate emergency.
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