Intelligent Machines

Beyond Blu-Ray

Holographic storage on the cheap.

A conventional DVD stores data only on its surface. But holographic storage encodes data as three-­dimensional patterns embedded inside a disc, vastly expanding its storage capacity. A long-awaited holographic drive from InPhase of Longmont, CO, is due out late this year; geared to Hollywood studios and large archives, it will cost $18,000. But a few companies, such as General Electric and Sony, are working on holographic storage systems that could be more compatible with existing technologies.

Stackable storage: A hologram is produced by two beams of light that interfere with each other. In GE’s prototype data storage system, the beams enter a disc from opposite sides.

InPhase’s drive stores information in big blasts, 1.4 million bits at a time. That makes data retrieval extremely fast, but it also requires complicated and costly optics. A prototype system from GE, on the other hand, stores information a bit at a time–just like today’s media. That means that GE’s holographic discs could be played on modified Blu-ray players, which could potentially handle old DVDs and CDs, as well.

This story is part of our January/February 2009 Issue
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

In the GE technology, the holographic bits–each measuring 0.3 by 5 micrometers–are arrayed in a plane, with dozens of planes layered throughout the disc. Initial versions of the disc will hold 300 gigabytes of data–about six times as much as a Blu-ray disc–and might reach market by 2012. Brian Lawrence, manager of GE’s Optical Polymer Lab, says that the technology should ultimately let a disc the size of a DVD store a terabyte of data. GE faces plenty of competition, however. Besides InPhase and Sony, other companies working on holographic storage include Daewoo and Maxell.

The experimental setup includes a beam splitter (cube at left) that bounces one of the beams off of a mirror (not shown) to ensure that it travels the same distance as the other beam before striking the disc.

Courtesy of General Electric

Cut off? Read unlimited articles today.

Become an Insider
Already an Insider? Log in.

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.