Imagine a single disc that holds the equivalent of 20 Blu-ray or 100 standard-format DVDs, or enough capacity to store all the data a person collects in a lifetime, twice over. GE’s Global Research wizards thought that would be pretty cool, so they invented technology that makes it possible.
The “micro holographic” technology allows 500 gigabytes of storage in a standard DVD-size disc, making the archival possibilities – for everything from financial records to medical documents – virtually endless. How big a leap have GRC scientists and engineers made? Consider: The standard-sized DVD holds about 5GB of data, and it was only last year that the first-ever 100GB Blu-ray disc was introduced.
Traditionally, DVDs stored data on a thin metal layer applied to the disc’s plastic hull. Recent advances upped storage capacity by adding up to four metallic layers, each densely packed with data in a way only a blue-laser optical reader could un-compress fast enough. GE’s micro-holographic disc will differ from forerunners in that it will embed data directly onto virtual layers within plastic, stacking 20 blue-laser readable layers one atop the other to realize 500GB capacity. Ultimately, a cross-functional team comprised of researchers from the GRC’s Applied Optics and Functional Materials labs is working toward micro-holographic discs that can store 1,000 GB, or 1 terabyte, of data. That’s enough capacity to store all the X-ray films of a large hospital on a single disc.
Interestingly, there’s no reason the micro-holographic layers must take the form of a disc. And GRC team members – who basically get paid to dream up new realities – remain agnostic about what shape future storage products using the material might assume. Ultimately, the material could become a superior storage alternative to magnetic tape. For now, GE will be letting potential licensees sample its proprietary holographic data-storage platform, which includes materials, discs, optical systems for manufacturing and optical drive technologies.