CEATEC: Hitachi Maxell develops wafer-thin storage disc
The discs are flexible but fit inside a layer of glass
IDG News Service - Hitachi Maxell Ltd. has developed a thin optical disc that could lead to data cartridges capable of storing terabytes of data.
The stacked volumetric optical disc (SVOD) is less than a tenth of a millimeter thick, and this thinness could give the technology an advantage over current CDs, DVDs and blue-laser discs, all of which are 1.2 mm thick. Many of the discs can be stacked together to realize a large data storage capacity in a small space, said Akira Ijichi, assistant department manager at the company's recording media sales department.
Working prototype discs on show at this week's Ceatec Japan 2006 exhibition in Chiba, Japan, are based on DVD technology, and each holds 4.7GB. Hitachi Maxell said it envisages cartridges of 100 discs that would be only a few centimeters thick but would be able to offer a total capacity of 470GB, said Ijichi. To keep the discs safe, each is housed in a protective sleeve inside the cartridge.
The cartridge slots into a dedicated drive, and the discs are pulled out of the cartridge automatically by a mechanism inside the unit and mounted into the drive.
Making the discs so thin doesn't come without its problems. The discs are flexible, but optical disc systems require a rigid disc so that the laser remains in focus on the disc's surface. To get around this problem, Hitachi Maxell has fitted inside each drive a 0.6-mm-thick piece of glass through which there are holes. Air is drawn through the holes when the disc spins causing the flexible disc to be drawn against the rigid piece of glass to make it flat.
The disc marks a different approach than that of many competitors, which are fixed on increasing the storage capacity by using ever more complicated storage technology to cram data more closely together on a disc. HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc achieve higher densities than SVOD because the storage bits are smaller, and next-generation systems in development rely on holographic technology.
Hitachi Maxell has basically finished development of the system but doesn't yet have commercialization plans, said Ijichi. It is considering working with an optical drive maker to develop a better drive for the system.
The SVOD is targeted at commercial storage applications. The company says that a system about the same size as a tower PC and will be able to hold 4.7TB of data. A 19-in. rack-mounted model will be able to hold three times that amount of data.
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