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Start-up to release 'stone-like' optical disc that lasts forever

August 8, 2011 06:05 AM ET

Recordable optical media such as CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs are made of layers of polycarbonate glued together. One layer of the disk contains a reflective material and a layer just above it incorporates an organic transparent dye. During recording, a laser hits the die layer and burns it, changing the dye from transparent to opaque creating bits of data. A low power laser then can read those bits by either passing through the transparent dye layer to the reflective layer or being absorbed by the pits.

Over long periods of time, DVDs are subject to de-lamination problems where the layers of polycarbonate separate, leading to oxidation and read problems. The dye layer, because its organic, can also break down over time, a process hastened by high temperatures and humidity.

While the DVD industry claims DVDs should last from 50 to 100 years, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), DVDs can break down in "several years" in normal environments. Additionally, NIST suggests DVDs should be stored in spaces where relative humidity is between 20% and 50%, and where temperatures do not drop below 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

Gene Ruth, a research director at Gartner, said generally he's not heard of a problem with DVD longevity. And, while he admits that a DVD on a car dashboard could be in trouble, the medium has generally had a good track record.

But Ruth said he can see a market in long-term archiving for a product such as the M-Disc because some industries, such as aircraft engineering, healthcare and financial services, store data for a lifetime and beyond.

Millenniata partnered with Hitachi-LG Data Storage to provide M-Ready technology in most of its DVD and Blu-ray drives. Shumway said the products will begin shipping next month and should be in stores in the beginning of October.

LG player
Hitachi-LG Data Storage's M-Disc read-write player.

"We felt it was important that we first produce this with a major drive manufacturer, someone that already had models and firmware out there," Shumway said.

Unlike DVDs, which come in 10-, 25-, 50- or 100-disc packs, M-Discs will be available one at a time, or in groups of two or three for just under $3 per disc. Millenniata is also courting system manufacturers in the corporate archive world.

"We're working with some very large channels as we train their distribution networks to launch this," he said. "At the same time, we're launching this at Fry's [Electronics] so consumers can see it and be introduced to this technology."

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at Twitter @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed Mearian RSS. His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

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