Researchers at Swinburne University of Technology, in Melbourne, have developed a new DVD technology that could possibly boost disc capacity by 10,000 times beyond today's standard 4.7GB DVDs, according to a study published in the journal Nature.
A team of researchers from the university say the technology, dubbed Multiplexed optical recording, can create a "fifth dimension" of recording using polarisation and gold nanorods to reflect light, boosting data density beyond 1012 bits per centimeter. The team was able to store 1.6TB of data on a disk with the technology. Team members say that someday, the technique could yield up to 10TB on a single DVD-type disk.
Professor Min Gu, one of the three researchers who co-authored the paper on the technology, says: "We were able to show how nanostructured material can be incorporated onto a disc in order to increase data capacity without increasing the physical size of the disc".
The most highly advanced optical storage platters today use three-dimensional technology, where bits burned into the substrate material can be read both on the surface as well as throughout the platter. Three-dimensional technology uses a single colour laser beam or light wavelength to read the data in the form of bits on a platter. By using nanotechnology in the form of small gold rods that reflect light, the researchers were able to create a spectral or colour dimension in addition to a polarisation dimension, adding two dimensions beyond 3D.
To create the colour dimension, the researchers inserted gold nanorods onto a disc's surface. Because nanoparticles react to light according to their shape, this allowed the researchers to record information in a range of different colour wavelengths on the same physical disc location.
The polarisation dimension was created when researchers projected light waves onto the disc and the direction of the electric field contained in the light waves aligned with the gold nanorods. That allowed the researchers to record different layers of information at different angles.
"The polarisation can be rotated 360 degrees." says researcher James Chon.
"We were, for example, able to record at zero degree polarisation. Then on top of that, were able to record another layer of information at 90 degrees polarisation, without them interfering with each other," Chon says.
Even a 1TB disc created with the technology would provide enough capacity to hold 300 feature length films or 250,000 songs.
One hurdle facing the researchers is a lack of suitable recording medium that would afford the speed needed to write to the discs. However, the researchers are confident the discs will be commercially available within five to 10 years.
They also say the technology is likely to have immediate applications in a range of fields, such as storing extremely large medical files like MRIs, and could be a boon in the financial, military and security arenas.