No, that’s not the clear plastic disc that goes on top of a spindle of DVD-Rs. What you see there is a very special piece of glass with some crazy nano structuring, effectively turning it into a whole new generation of computer memory.
The millimetre-sized device changes the way light travels through glass, generating ‘whirlpools’ of light that can be read in much the same way as data in optical fibres, except the “whirlpools” of light data can be even more precise and allow for the “optical manipulation of atom-sized objects.” Even more technically, these are called, “monolithic glass space-variant polarization converters” and they’re handled on the nano scale.
In effect, this creation by researchers at the University of Southampton uses a new five dimensional approach that is reusable and twenty times cheaper and more compact than older methods of microsocopy. Most of this is Greek to me too, but if it means we can cram more memory into millimeter-sized nanostructures, I’m all for it.