Tungsten could be the solution to making sure that these barcodes will be scannable for millions of years.
Researchers have now come up with a way to make sure that QR codes can store information for extremely long periods of time by using certain etching techniques to hold every bit.
This involves the use of optical information carriers that will be able to withstand the test of time.
The method used by the researchers to create the QR codes and to preserve both them and the information that they contain was to apply the barcode to a wafer that is made up of tungsten that is then encapsulated in silicon nitride. The reason that tungsten was selected for this purpose is that this substance is able to experience extreme high and low temperatures without being damaged.
The QR codes are etched onto the tungsten and are then protected behind a layer of silicon nitride.
However, the QR codes aren’t as simple as the standard format that is typically seen in grocery store products or on movie posters. Instead, each one of the pixels within the barcode contains its own smaller QR code, which – in its own turn – stores even more data. This helps to make sure that every little bit of scannable space contains as much data as possible and that it can be held over exceptionally long periods of time.
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According to one of the researchers behind this discovery, these QR codes would make it possible to save anything that is believed to be worthwhile, including a digital copy of the Mona Lisa, for example.
These QR codes can help to overcome the struggle that is being experienced regarding the longevity of data storage technology. Though current hard disk drives can store tremendous amounts of data, they have a very short lifespan, at an average of 10 years when maintained at a room temperature. This is because their magnetic energy barrier is low enough that over time, data is lost. Paper, DVDs, CDs, tablets, clay, tape, and stone also have their own limitations. These new tungsten barcodes are designed to be able to last for millions of years, even in extreme temperatures.