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The Ins and Outs of Holographic Discs

UncategorizedHawksM11 August 2011

So first we had CDs, or compact discs, which were the first optical discs used to store digital data, entering the world around 1979. Then came DVDs, and then Blu-ray discs, and each technology upgrade resulted in the next generation being faster, more sophisticated and capable of storing even more information in one place.

Now the story of technology upgrades in data storage discs has a new protégé to add to the lineage – the holographic disc. While there are some arguments against this new technology going mainstream, including cost-effectiveness and the cumbersome machinery needed to make it work, the main thing holographic discs have to offer is space, and lots of it.

Initial Cost of Disc About $18 About $10 More than $100
Initial Cost of Recorder/Player About $2,000 About $2,000 About $3,000
Storage Capacity 25-128 GB 15-30 GB 500 GB
Read/Write Speed 36 MBps 36 MBps 36 MBps


GE Global Research recently announced (August 2011) its plan to go forward with distribution of its holographic optical storage disc, which can hold 500 GB of information. For comparison, HD-DVD discs can hold 15-30 GB and Blu-ray discs generally hold 25 GB on a single layer disc, or 50 GB on a dual layer disc (the standard for one feature-length film). GE says that their micro-holographic discs have the storage capacity of 20 single-layer Blu-ray discs, 100 DVDs or the equivalent of a hard drive in most laptops. In addition to an unprecedented amount of space for both consumer entertainment and archival use, the recording speed is equal to that of Blu-ray.

GE is not the only one looking to put these mega-storage discs out on the market in the next few months. InPhase Technologies had both a 300 GB holographic optical disc and an 800 GB rewritable disc with data transfer rates of 80 MBps planned for release, but the company dissolved before the products could be put on the market. Under new management now, InPhase could be competition for GE, touting technologies that boast a transfer speed of 20MBps, or almost 5 times that of Blu-ray.

So what makes the HVD (holographic versatile disc) so special? While CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs can only store information on the surface of the disc, HVDs utilize the entire disc’s storage space by storing and reading information in 3-D holographic patterns at all levels of the substrate. The disc is the same size and shape of a CD, DVD or Blu-Ray, but can store data at much deeper levels, in 3-D patterns throughout rather than just the top four surface layers.

GE even hopes to create an HVD that can store up to 1 Terabyte (1,000 GB) of data. In other words, it would have the storage capacity for all the X-ray films in a large hospital on one disc.

So what do you use to play these discs? GE remarked that the HVD players would be very similar to CD and DVD players, and would be able to read CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs.

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