About the Project
Data centres for cloud computing need to store large quantities of data in an archival format, where durability of the data is paramount. Examples of archive data include medical records, personal backups, insurance data or CCTV recordings. Currently archive data, also called “cold data”, is stored in magnetic tape which is only durable for a few years and data must thus be replicated periodically at huge cost. To address this issue, Microsoft Research is currently investigating the use of 5D high capacity polarisation multiplexed optical data storage in a collaborative research project called Project Silica. The 5D data storage technique uses a focused femtosecond laser to write data into the bulk of a glass block. At the focus of the laser a small ellipsoidal structure is formed with an orientation and size related to the input polarisation and intensity of the light respectively. Readout and recovery of such polarisation multiplexed data requires development of new advanced polarisation microscopes.
In addition to the field of optical storage, the question of measuring polarisation properties in three dimensions is very useful for biologists. Polarisation imaging modalities offer additional contrast mechanisms, allowing study of tissue birefringence or diattenuation. Collagen fibres, for example, exhibit both birefringence and diattenuation, the magnitude of which provides a measure of the local density and orientational uniformity, which in turn can give insight into the function and bio-mechanics of different structures. Furthermore, polarisation measurements can reveal the micro-structure and composition of tissues. Structural differences in, for example, elastin in skin can result from burns, photodamage or the development of skin cancer. 3D polarisation information can hence play a key role in tissue diagnosis and guided surgery, reducing the need for invasive biopsies or histological studies.
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