Researchers at GE have made a major breakthrough in holographic storage technology that will help to usher in the next generation of optical storage. The researchers have developed a DVD-size disc that can hold 500GB of data. This is roughly equivalent to the capacity of 20 single-layer Blu-ray discs, 100 DVDs, or the hard drive of a desktop computer.
GE’s discs use a recording technique called micro-holographic storage, which is an optical format similar to DVDs and Blu-ray discs. What’s unique about holographic storage is that it has the ability to use the entire volume of the disc material to store data. Today’s optical storage discs store information only on the surface of a disc. With holographic storage, three-dimensional patterns that represent bits of information are written into the discs and then read out.
The capacity of GE’s holographic discs is a major breakthrough. The technology used in the process is similar enough to today’s DVD and Blu-ray technology that future optical drives may be able to read CD, DVD, Blu-ray, and holographic discs.
Brian Lawrence leads GE’s Holographic Storage program. In a statement he said, “GE’s breakthrough is a huge step toward bringing our next generation holographic storage technology to the everyday consumer. Because GE’s micro-holographic discs could essentially be read and played using similar optics to those found in standard Blu-ray players, our technology will pave the way for cost-effective, robust and reliable holographic drives that could be in every home. The day when you can store your entire high definition movie collection on one disc and support high resolution formats like 3-D television is closer than you think.”
GE’s researchers have successfully recorded micro-holographic marks approaching one percent reflectivity at a diameter of about one micron. This one-micron size makes it possible for a disc the size of a DVD to hold 500GB of data. GE has been working on holographic storage for six years. The 500GB capacity is a milestone in the research. Someday, the researchers hope to devise a way to store 1TB of data on a single disc using the holographic process.
In addition to working to boost capacity, GE researchers have also been focused on making the technology adaptable to existing optical storage formats and manufacturing techniques in hopes of lowering the bar for adoption. GE plans to focus on the commercial archival industry first followed by the consumer market for its micro-holographic storage technology.