May 20, 2009

5-D Discs Will Offer Greater Storage Capacity Than DVDs

"Five-dimensional" discs with storage capacity 10,000 times that of current DVDs could be on the market within a decade, researchers said on Wednesday.

A team from Swinburne University of Technology in Australia said by using nanoparticles and adding a "polarization" dimension to existing technology, storage capacity can be vastly increased without changing the size of a disc.

The researchers reported that the technique has allowed them to store 1.6 terabytes of data on a single disc, with the potential to store up to 10 terabytes in the future.

One terabyte of capacity is enough to store 250,000 songs or 300 feature length films.

"We were able to show how nanostructured material can be incorporated onto a disc in order to increase data capacity, without increasing the physical size of the disc," said researcher Min Gu in a statement.

"These extra dimensions are the key to creating ultra-high capacity discs."

Discs currently have three spatial dimensions, but researchers were able to create an additional spectral, or color, dimension as well by using nanoparticles. The researchers, who have signed a deal with Samsung Electronics, created the spectral dimension by inserting gold nanorods onto the disc's surface. The nanorods then form surface plasmons when hit by light.

Since nanoparticles react to light according to their shape, researchers were able to record data in a variety of different wavelengths on the same place on the disc. By contrast, existing DVDs are recorded in a single color wavelength using a laser, the scientists said.

The researchers also created an additional dimension using polarization, a technique in which light waves are projected onto the disc to record layers of information at different angles.

"The polarization can be rotated 360 degrees," a Reuters report quoted James Chon, another member of the research team, as saying.

"So for example, we were able to record at zero degree polarization. Then on top of that we were able to record another layer of information at 90 degrees polarization, without them interfering with each other."

Although certain issues, such as the speed at which the discs can be written on, require further work, the researchers said their efforts could have a number of immediate applications.

For example, the new technique could help store extremely large medical and financial files, and could provide the higher data densities needed for encryption in military and security applications.

The research was published in the journal Nature.


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