Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Platinum-Inscribed Sapphire Disks Designed to Preserve Nuclear Waste Warnings for 1 Million Years

Faced with the challenge of how to communicate the dangers of radioactive waste to archeologists hundreds of thousands of years from now, the French nuclear waste agency, ANDRA, devised an indestructible data disk made from industrial sapphire etched with platinum.

Designed to endure the elements for more than one million years, an eight-inch disk will carry 40,000 miniaturized pages of images and text covering the dangers of nuclear waste. The disk, which costs $30,000 to produce, runs on no device. It can be viewed with a common microscope. Apparently, the scientists made the assumption that future civilizations will have access to a microscope.

The scientists clearly picked sapphire and platinum because of their impressive characteristics of hardness, durability and extreme resistance to corrosion. The disks were acid tested to ensure their lifespan.

Disks made from industrial sapphire. Photo courtesy of Monocrystal.

Preserving warning data for vast periods of time is a byproduct of the extreme lifespan of nuclear waste, some of which is still dangerous for 100,000 years. ANDRA's Patrick Charton recently presented the sapphire-and-platinum disk solution before the Euroscience Open Forum, according to

Charlton explained that these discs are meant to provide "information for future archaeologists," though he admitted that "[we] have no idea what language to write it in."

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