In the James Bond song Diamonds Are Forever, Shirley Bassey praises the longevity of diamonds. She admires how these precious gems lustre on after love ends. Diamonds aren’t just a girl’s best friend anymore. This precious stone could serve a more practical purpose by storing data. Since diamonds are forever, data stored in them could also last forever.
Data storage, like diamonds, is a precious but limited resource. In the present world of big data, there is not enough space to store large volumes of information. The current technologies in data storage are reaching their limits as long-term data storage is concerned. They may decade as time goes or may fail after certain rewrites. Thus, the world needs new alternatives for data storage or else it could face technological and financial disasters. Later on, the researchers from the ‘City University of New York’ (CUNY) explores the storage capacity of diamonds to an unimaginable level. Data stored in diamonds would not only last forever, but a small diamond half the size of rice grain and thinner than a sheet of paper could store the data of 100 DVDs. This capacity is expected to increase to the equivalent of one million DVDs.
Imperfect Diamond for Data storage
Using perfect diamonds for data storage are not actually perfect. By the way, no perfect diamond exists, but flaws are not noticeable to the naked eye. On the atomic level, these crystals are extremely orderly, but sometimes defects arise. Exploiting these defects can store information in three dimensions.
A Diamond is supposed to be pure well-ordered array of carbon atoms. Sometimes there is a fracture in the order where a carbon atom is missing that results in a vacancy. At times, a nitrogen atom may take the place of a carbon atom. When a vacancy occurs next to a nitrogen atom, the defect is called a nitrogen vacancy [NV] centre. These nitrogen vacancy centres make these gems ideal memory platforms because they offer empty spaces in which data can be stored.
Encoding Data on Diamonds
The process of encoding, writing, and reading data is complex. It is based on a binary system using only two digits, one and zero, to represent information. The NV centers can trap an electron and also be forced to release a trapped electron. This allows to treat an NV center with or without an electron as a binary one or zero. The idea is that, if the defect or NV center has an extra electron, the bit is one. If it doesn’t have an extra electron, the bit is zero. This electron one/zero property opens the door for turning the NV centre’s charge state into the basis for using diamonds as a long-term storage medium.
Defects give the diamond a negative electrical charge. However, these defects could be given a neutral charge by shining lasers on them. Diamonds can encode data in the form of negatively and neutrally charged defects, which lasers can read, write, erase, and rewrite. A green laser can inject an electron into an NV center. A red laser at low power can determine if an electron is present. At higher powers, the red laser will eject an electron from an NV center if it is present. The laser beams are larger than the single atom defects. By controlling the duration of the laser pulse, a particular number of NV centers can be charged. This allows a single pulse to store or read multiple bits of data. For example, if the volume contained 4 NV centers, the volume could represent 2 bits of information.
Researchers claim that, if the diamond is in total darkness, the memory state will remain for ever. Hence, much work are to be done before information technology departments start installing and consumers begin purchasing diamond drives. But these early results promises new direction for the future of data storage.