The Future is Here

Chinese resurrect optical media with 700TB laser disc

Optical discs are no longer used as widely as they were quite recently. In fact, technology is gradually disappearing, repeating the fate of floppy disks, compact cassettes, etc. True, the new development of scientists and engineers from China and Australia will be able to bring optical discs back from oblivion if they become in demand.

A joint team of engineers and scientists from Shanghai Polytechnic University and Melbourne Institute of Technology was able to create a new recording technology that can increase the disk capacity to 700 terabytes. This is much more than any other storage medium, including hard drives and SSDs.
What is this technology?
Scientists, with the support of colleagues from the National University of Singapore, were able to accommodate the usual 700 TB of data on a disk. The disc diameter is 120 mm, which is the current standard for almost all optical discs, including CD, DVD and Blu-ray.

By far the largest is the four-layer Blu-ray disc, which holds 128GB of data. A standard single-layer Blu-ray disc can store up to 25 GB of information on it. It turns out that one new disc replaces 28 thousand single-layer Blu-ray discs at once.

As for hard drives and SSDs, the largest of them can accommodate several tens of terabytes of data. But, as far as we know, the contenders for leadership have not yet reached even the 100 TB mark. And here - 700 terabytes at once.
How it works?
The developers have called their technology "subdiffractive optical recording technology." One of its advantages, in addition to the ability to record huge amounts of information, is the use of inexpensive continuous-wave lasers. There are no particular obstacles in the mass production of drives that support the new technology.

The main secret here is in the material on which the recording is made. It is not a metallic thin foil, but a composite material. Scientists do not reveal all the secrets, since they plan to commercialize the technology. But it is known that this is a nanocomposite based on special particles with the addition of lanthanide with "flakes" of graphene oxide.

Another feature is the same continuous lasers. In all other cases, pulsed lasers are used.

The technology developed by scientists can be used in the mass production of optical media. True, the authors of the development have not yet talked about at least an approximate order of prices, or about how much money and other resources are needed to start production.
Closest competitors
The most worthy alternatives are based on the use of magnetic tapes. For example, IBM produces tapes of the IBM LTO Ultrium 8 standard. Cartridges with such media range from 12 TB of uncompressed data to 30 TB of compressed data.

Japanese scientists from the University of Tokyo have created a new chemical compound that can significantly increase the capacity of magnetic carriers - for example, magnetic tapes. According to the researchers, the new material allows the creation of tape media capable of storing tens or even hundreds of terabytes.

New drives based on this material allow for increased data density and improved data storage reliability compared to traditional tape drives, hard drives or SSDs. In addition, the energy consumption for writing and reading data is lower than other media, and the systems themselves will cost less. For data recording, focused-millimeter-wave-assisted magnetic recording (F-MIMR) is used in the frequency range from 30 to 300 GHz.

But so far this is only a scientific project, nothing is known about the terms of its commercialization.

Of the more or less promising developments, we can mention the joint project of Fujifilm and IBM, which managed to increase the capacity of tape drives up to 580 TB. However, they are not on sale yet.

In the market for SSDs and hard drives, there are no competitors at all. As for hard drives, the maximum capacity of the most advanced HDDs does not exceed 30 TB (of those available on the market). In the case of SSD, we are already talking about 100 TB. True, the cost of such a drive is $ 40 thousand, which is a lot even by the standards of non-poor companies. There is also a 50 TB model, but it also costs a lot - $ 12.5 thousand.

As for optical discs, the last attempt to develop something more or less worthwhile was made in 2013. Then Sony and Panasonic joined forces on a project to create an optical disc with a capacity of 300 GB (which is only more than 2 times more than a four-layer Blu-Ray).

This drive was designed for archiving large amounts of data, that is, for the corporate, not the user segment. The companies even pushed for the creation of a new standard - Archival Disc. Discs began to be produced in small batches in 2016, but they did not become widespread or in demand.

There are also all sorts of exotic developments like "crystal discs" or recording information in DNA strands. But for obvious reasons - the complexity of the development of storage devices, recording and reading devices, these projects have remained "on paper".
Sparks 22 april 2021, 11:57
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