GE develops optical disc material to hold 500GB of data

Holographic discs can be read and written to with DVD players similar to current standards

GE Global Research, the technology development arm of General Electric Co., said today it has made a breakthrough in holographic optical disc storage, claiming that its researchers have developed material that can support as much as 500GB of capacity on a single standard DVD-size disk.

GE's micro-holographic storage material, which was recently demonstrated by GE in its labs, has the capacity to hold the equivalent of 20 single-layer Blu-ray discs, 100 DVDs or the hard drive for a large desktop computer.

"GE's breakthrough is a huge step toward bringing our next-generation holographic storage technology to the everyday consumer," said Brian Lawrence, who leads GE's Holographic Storage program.

GE said it plans to have the discs commercially available by 2012. It said the discs will be able to be read and recorded on systems similar to a typical Blu-ray or DVD player.

GE researchers have demonstrated a threshold micro-holographic storage material that can enable the storage of more than 500GB in a standard DVD-size disc, equal to the capacity of 20 single-layer Blu-ray discs, 100 DVDs or the hard drive for a large desktop computer.
Overlapping blue lasers recording holograms in a GE micro-holographic disc

The company said it successfully recorded micro-holographic marks approaching 1% reflectivity, that is, its laser was able to pick up the reflection of 1 bit burned with a diameter of approximately one micron (a millionth of a meter). It means a laser was able to pick up the reflection of 1 bit burned into a substrate. When using standard DVD or Blu-ray disc optics, the scaled down marks will have sufficient reflectivity to enable more than 500GB of total capacity in a CD-size disc.

Unlike today's DVDs and HD Blu-ray disks, holographic storage not only reads from the surface of the disc, but also into multiple layers of the substrate.

GE's technology uses holograms, or three-dimensional patterns, made up of bits of data written into the disc, which can then be read out.

GE said the micro-holographic storage technology is different from other optical-disc technology only in its capacity. The company claimed that its micro-holographic players will allow consumers to play back their CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray Discs as well as the holographic media.

"Because GE's micro-holographic discs could essentially be read and played using similar optics to those found in standard Blu-ray players, our technology will pave the way for cost-effective, robust and reliable holographic drives that could be in every home," Lawrence said. "The day when you can store your entire high-definition movie collection on one disc and support high-resolution formats like 3-D television is closer than you think."

The company said that it has been working on holographic storage technology for more than six years and that this latest milestone in making micro-holographic discs will ultimately lead to the capability to store more than 1TB of data on a single disc.

Bill Kernick, who leads GE's Technology Ventures group, said the company has yet to determine its go-to-market strategy but will "continue to engage with a variety of strategic partners to create the best route from product development to introduction into the marketplace."

GE plans to initially focus on the commercial archival industry, followed by the consumer market for its micro-holographic storage technology.

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