Holographic DVD to Hold 1.6 Terabytes

Move over HD DVD and Blu-ray. Bell Labs spin-off InPhase Technologies and Hitachi Maxell are currently working on a computer disc about the size of a DVD that could hold up to sixty times the data. The companies hope to have the disc and compatible drives on the market by the end of next year.

The new discs will use a technology known as holographic memory. Data is stored on a crystal material that is sensitive to light. In order to read and write data, a light beam is split in two and one is passed through semi-transparent material. This material alters the beam to encode data.

The two beams then merge again in the crystal and the pattern of interference of the altered beam is recorded. Information is read and written quickly, as a large number of bits can be recorded and retrieved in parallel with one another.

This technique would ultimately allow a single disc to hold up to 1.6 terabytes of data read at 160 megabits per second -- 340 times the capacity and 20 times the data rate of traditional DVDs, and more than twice the data rate of Blu-ray and HD DVD with more than fifteen times the space.

Initially, however, holographic discs will launch with a capacity of 300GB.

While the format is not being marketed as a consumer alternative to either HD DVD or Blu-ray, some believe it could pose a threat to the new formats. A single disc could hold a dozen high-definition movies at better quality than the currently proposed next-generation DVD formats.

The manufacturers have already proved that using the holographic format for movies would be feasible; InPhase has tested a disc that streams a HDTV-formatted movie. Television network TNT has also utilized the format for streaming an advertisement on-demand during its program schedule.

"We believe the capacity and data rates of holographic storage will be critical to achieving the breakthrough improvements in work flow and cost reduction that the broadcast industry is seeking," said Nelson Diaz, InPhase CEO.

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