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Nanostructured Glass Creates 5-D Computer Memory
Aug 2011
SOUTHAMPTON, England, Aug. 17, 2011 — A new type of nanostructured glass that has been adapted into a five-dimensional optical recording device has been developed by researchers at the University of Southampton, who say that data stored on the glass will last forever.

The researchers used nanostructures to develop new monolithic glass space-variant polarization converters. These millimeter-size devices generate whirlpools of light, enabling precise laser material processing, optical manipulation of atom-size objects, ultrahigh-resolution imaging and, potentially, tabletop particle accelerators.

New monolithic glass space-variant polarization converter (Image: University of Southampton)

At sufficient intensities, ultrashort laser pulses can be used to imprint tiny dots (like 3-D pixels) called voxels in glass, said the researchers. Their previous research showed that lasers with fixed polarization produce voxels consisting of a periodic arrangement of ultrathin (tens of nanometers) planes. By passing polarized light through such a voxel imprinted in silica glass, the researchers observed that the way the light travels depends on its polarization orientation. This "form birefringence" phenomenon is the basis of their new polarization converter. The advantage of this approach over existing methods for microscopy is that it is compact and 20 times cheaper.

"We have improved the quality and fabrication time, and we have developed this five-dimensional memory, which means that data can be stored on the glass and last forever," said lead researcher Martynas Beresna. "No one has ever done this before."

The scientists are working with the Lithuanian company Altechna to introduce this technology to the market.

The study was published in Applied Physics Letters.

For more information, visit:

nanostructured glass
A unique glass made up of nano-structured materials to create millimeter sized monolithic glass space-variant polarization converters which ultimately alter the way light propagates through and is ultimately stored in glass. This store and read technique allows for more precise laser material processing, ultra-high resolution imaging, as well as optical manipulation of atom-sized objects.
Basic ScienceEnglandEuropefive-dimensional optical recordingimagingMartynas BeresnaMicroscopymonolithic glassnanostructured glassoptical manipulationopticspolarized lightResearch & Technologysilica glassspace-variant polarization converterstabletop particle acceleratorsultrahigh resolution imagingUniversity of Southamptonvoxelslasers

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