April 27, 2009

GE Unveils Micro-Holographic 500GB Storage Disc

General Electric unveiled on Monday a micro-holographic disc that can store 500 GB of data, the equivalent of 100 DVDs.

Although the technology is still in its early stages, the company is targeting the archive industry with the new disc, which is roughly the same size as a conventional DVD.

But it also believes the disc will ultimately have applications in the consumer marketplace and for home players.

Micro-holographic discs can store more data than Blu-ray or DVDs because they store information in three dimensions, rather than just as pits on the disc's surface.  Indeed, Blu-ray discs, typically used to store high definition movies and games, can hold between 25GB and 50GB of data.

The challenge for micro-holographic discs has been to grow the hologram's reflectivity so players can both read and write to the discs. As the reflectivity increases, so does the disc's capacity.

"Very recently, the team at GE has made dramatic improvements in the materials enabling significant increases in the amount of light that can be reflected by the holograms," wrote Brian Lawrence, head of GE's Holographic Storage, on GE's research blog.

Although the technology is still in a laboratory phase, GE believes it will take off because consoles would be backwards compatible with existing DVD and Blu-ray technologies.

"The hardware and formats are so similar to current optical storage technology that the micro-holographic players will enable consumers to play back their CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs," GE said in a statement.

"GE's breakthrough is a huge step toward bringing our next generation holographic storage technology to the everyday consumer," Mr. Lawrence said in a statement.

"The day when you can store your entire high definition movie collection on one disc and support high resolution formats like 3D television is closer than you think," he said.

Micro-holographic technology has been a leading area of storage research for years.  The discs are seen as providing effective and reliable storage that is both retail and consumer friendly.

General Electric will need to collaborate with hardware manufacturers to bring the technology to market.

However, given the modest adoption of worldwide Blu-ray discs, some firms may instead believe digital distribution and cloud computing is the ultimate solution to storage and content delivery.

"This is truly a breakthrough in the development of the materials that are so critical to ultimately bringing holographic storage to the everyday consumer," Lawrence said.


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