If you are impressed by the holding capacity of 4.7 gigs for a single sided
DVD disk, then you "ain't seen nothing yet". Last spring, at the National
Association of Broadcasters show in Las Vegas, InPhase Technologies, (related
to Lucent Technologies), unveiled Tapestrya breakthrough 3D holographic
video storage system...a video recorder that records and stores video data as
holograms on disks.
Just one of these disks can hold 100 gigabytes of video.You would need more
than 20 of todays DVDs to equal the storage capacity of just one of these special
disks, and that's just for starters. According to the developers, future disks
for the system will be able to store 1.3 terabytes or more. One terabyte is
equal to 1024 gigabytes or the equivalent of about 200 compressed dvd movies.
The idea of using holography for storage isn't new. The potential has been known
for several years, but the stumbling block has always been the unavailablity
of an ideal and viable recording material for the disks. In previous experiments
with holographic recording, overly expensive and problematic mediums were being
used that had poor transfer rates and no commercial potential.
The ideal material had to be extremely photosensitive, thermally stable, and
affordable. And this is exactly what InPhase Technologies succeeded in developinga
special two chemical polymer material that is both highly photosensitive and
stable at high heat levels, as well as cheaper than the old materials that were
being used before.
This new polymer is not only remarkable for its storage capacityjust
a postage stamp size of it can store 2 gigabytesbut for its speedy data
transfer rate of 20 mbsabout 10 times faster than the top video storage
devices available today. The high photosensitvity of the polymer is what makes
them fast. And significant, as well, is the fact that these disks have been
determined to have an archival life span of 50 yearshigher than that of
CDs and DVDs. It's no surprise that this medium is the current buzz among the
top optical drive companies who are eager to test it to see if there are ways
it can be used with their drives.
The Tapestry disks themselves are about the same size as a regular CD but that's
where the similarity ends. These disks are enclosed in a cartridge, are non
reflective, transparent, (see image below) and they do not spin.
Image from: http://www.inphase-technologies.com/products/tapestrymedia/index.html
A main reason these disks can hold so much more information is that the entire
thickness of the disk is penetrated (written to). With a conventional CD-DVD,
only the surface is burned. Think of it as the difference between two dimensional
and three dimensional.
The way this holographic storage device records is by splitting the laser into
two beams. One beam, called the signal beam, holds the encoded data and when
the other beam, called the reference beam, crosses it at precise angles, a hologram
of the data is created which is then recorded on to the disk. This is a very
simplistic explanation. If you'd like a little more detailed description, see
the following link, where you can also see an illustration of the process: http://www.inphase-technologies.com/technology/tour/images/tour1.gif
InPhase plans to have Tapestry in the market by 2004, but it's not being geared
towards the consumer market and it will be quite expensive. The first units
are expected to sell for anywhere between 7 and 10 thousand dollars. However,
like any new technology, prices should gradually drop if this takes off. Right
now, the market focus of Tapestry is commercialprofessional video editors,
digital movie companies and the like. It will also be pushed towards companies
that have massive storage needs and need quick access to it.
According to Inphase Business Development VP, Slip Kilsdonk, "This is
the future of content distribution. In 10 to 15 years, holographic storage will
replace just about every application that uses other existing technologies."
If that prediction comes true, then a DVD, in the not so distant future, may
be no more impressive in its holding capacity than a 1.44 mb floppy disk is
We shall see.
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