Researchers Develop Optical Technology Increasing Data Storage To 1,000 Terabytes On a Single DVD

The race to figure out more efficient ways of storing the ever-increasing amount of data we generate every day is on, and researchers have developed a simple yet powerful way to dramatically increase the storage density of a DVD. How dramatic? DVDs can handle 4.7GB of storage using conventional means of burning; a group of researchers at Swinburne University say they can pack in 1,000TB (or one petabyte) on a single disc.

In an article explaining the technology, the team explained that burners store data on optical discs by “burning” a string of 1s and 0s--represented by dots and performed by a single beam of light. To date, the limitation has had to do with the size of that light dot. A law known as Abbe’s limit states that a spot of light cannot be smaller than half its wavelength; because the dots, then, have a certain size (500 nanometers), and of course the disc itself has a set size, this limits how much data can fit onto a disc.

Petabyte optical storage
The red beam is the "write" beam; the purple beam is inhibiting a portion of the red

The team found a way around this problem by using two beams of light. Both beams follow Abbe’s law in that neither can produce a smaller dot, but by using one beam to “write” and another beam to block out part of the first beam, the first beam’s effective dot of light is much smaller than it normally would be. The resulting dot is just nine nanometers in diameter.

This innovation could prove valuable for a number of applications, including 3D recording, substantially more dense optical storage for consumers and businesses alike, and data centers.