All data storage in modern times are done on disc, be it a computer hard drive or a CD-R disc. Blu-ray and HD-DVD have upped the ante when it comes to the amount of data that you can hold on a disc, but at some time they will eventually become obsolete. Right now our data storage needs are currently met, but as the amount of data available continues to rise, storage technology must evolve with it. The next generation of storage technology is going to be Holographic Data Storage.
What is holographic storage?
With CD-R and DVD-R technology, data is stored on the surface of the disc as distinct magnetic or optical changes. With holographic data storage, an entire page of information is stored at once as an optical interference pattern within a thick, photosensitive optical material.
How do they do this?
This is done by intersecting two coherent laser beams, the object and reference beams, within the storage material. The object beam contains all the information needing to be stored, while the reference beam is designed to be simple to produce. The resulting interference between the beams causes chemical and/or physical changes in the photosensitive medium that the data is being stored on. Basically “burning” the information to the storage medium, this mark is called the grating. When the grating is illuminated by one of the two waves that were used to record the information, the light is refracted in a way that the other wave is reconstructed. These gratings can be stacked or superimposed in the same thick piece of media, as long as there is a distinguishing spacing or direction, allowing the stacked bits of data to be accessed independently. In addition to larger storage capabilities, holographic storage also boasts to accelerate data transfer rates to about one billion bits per second and reduce access times to just tens of microseconds.
1. Larger storage capacity – Some companies are developing a technology that enables the storage of between 100GB and 1TB of data. Compare this to Blu-ray and HD-DVD, which max out at 50GB. Amazing leap in the amount of data you can store on one piece of media.
2. Accelerated data transfer – The holographic data storage medium in the works boasts data transmission speeds of 100Mbps to 1Gbps. The new HD-DVD and Blu-ray discs clock in at 36.55Mbps, which is only a fraction of the holographic data storage transfer rate.
Well, if you’re like me, you learned quite a bit about a new technology from this short article. This new technology is quite a ways off from being accessible to the common consumer, but some companies are in the process of developing holographic data storage for the corporate sector. Technology is a strange beast, always changing, always mutating. The sky is the limit, and only time will tell where we’ll be headed after the rise and fall of this yet-to-be-seen data technology.