A new optical storage technique that records in five dimensions could hold up to 10,000 times what a standard DVD can store. The new technology could see a whopping 1.6 terabytes of information fit on a DVD-sized disc [BBC], whereas a DVD now can hold only 8.5 gigabytes and a Blu-ray disc up to 50.
Discs started out storing information in two dimensions and more recently have been stepped up to three. By using gold nanorods [the researchers] were able to add two additional dimensions, one based on the colour spectrum, and the other on polarisation [PhysOrg]. The key for his team was to find a material for the disk that could store this extra information…. That ideal material contains gold, rod-shaped nanoparticles of different sizes and orientations [Nature].
Straying from the traditional DVD model, which records data in one-color wavelengths, the researchers used the nanoparticles to record information in a range of different colour wavelengths on the same physical disc location…. Also, the amount of incoming laser light absorbed by the nanoparticles depends on its polarisation. This allowed the researchers to record different layers of information at different angles [BBC]. They have shown that using two polarizations and three colours, you can pack around 140 gigabytes of information into each cubic centimetre of disk space. That allows a DVD-sized disk to hold 1.6 terabytes of data…. Adding an extra dimension by using another polarization could ramp that up further to 7.2 terabytes [Nature].
While color- and polarization-based techniques have been used in isolation before, this is the first time the two have been integrated in a single technology that the researchers call 5-D recording, though a commercial product is at least five years off.
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Image: Flickr / samantha celera