Yes, CDs sometimes disintegrate within a decade or two, but with proper handling and the use of higher-quality discs, your digital photo album should last a century. The breakdown of discs, known as CD rot, begins with poor care: scratches, bending the disc as you remove it from its case, damage to the edges. But these slight nicks and fractures don't make rot inevitable. You can avoid it by using CDs coated with gold rather than the more common silver. The science involved here is simple. A recordable CD has three key layers: the substrate, onto which the data is stamped; a silver or gold coating that reflects the laser reading the disc; and a protective lacquer. If the lacquer is scratched away, air will get through to the reflective coating and, with silver CDs, eat away at it through oxidization--oxygen molecules bond to the coating and change its chemical structure, corroding it. Gold, on the other hand, doesn't oxidize, which makes these discs more durable.