Documenting the Coming Singularity

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Getting harder to keep up - Holographic discs set to smash storage records

NewScientist - January 22 2009, by Colin Barras

How quickly things change. Just as Blu-ray is starting to replace the DVDs in our homes, another technology is developed that could sound its death knell.

A dual-layer Blu-ray disc can store an impressive 50 gigabytes, but discs which can hold 20 times as much data have just taken a step closer, thanks to new materials that make reading and writing 3D holograms more reliable.

CDs and DVDs store data as pits on their surface that are read by a laser. A Blu-ray disc can hold over five times more data than a standard DVD because the pits are much smaller. Writing the data onto two layers within the disc instantly doubles the volume of data that can be stored. But writing data to the whole thickness of the disc in the form of a hologram could dramatically increase storage capacity.

A pair of laser beams is used to write data into discs of light-sensitive plastic, with both aiming at the same spot. One beam shines continuously, while the other pulses on and off to encode patches that represent digital 0s and 1s.

At the points where the lasers meet, the intense light causes molecules in the disc's material to merge into chains, creating a physical pattern that locks the 0s and 1s into the disc. This pattern can be read back at a later date using another laser because the changed patches interact differently with light.

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