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Appeared on: Wednesday, July 20, 2011
GE Develops High-speed Micro-holographic Storage Recording Technology

Researchers at General Electric GE have managed to burn data on a 500GB holographic disc at the same speed as Blu-ray discs, paving the way for commercializing of next generation optical storage systems.

GE Global Research, the technology development arm of the General Electric Company, has successfully demonstrated a micro-holographic material that can support data recording at the same speed as Blu-ray discs. This result builds upon the April 2009 demonstration of a threshold micro-holographic storage material that can support 500 gigabytes of storage capacity in a standard DVD-size disc.

GE's breakthrough in recording speed, along with other technical improvements that have been made over the past two years has micro-holographic technology more poised than ever for commercialization.

"During the past two years, our research team has been focused on material improvements to increase the recording speed and making other key advances needed to ready GE's micro-holographic technology for market," said Lorraine. "With a speed to match Blu-ray's, discs made from GE's advanced micro-holographic materials are an attractive solution for both archival and consumer entertainment systems."

With higher recording speeds required in the professional archival industry, the latest breakthrough by GE researchers will advance the company's interests in commercializing GE's micro-holographic technology in this market space.

Lorraine also noted that the breakthrough in recording speed could hasten the entry of GE's micro-holographic technology into the consumer electronics market. Future micro-holographic discs using GE's proprietary material will read and record on systems very similar to a typical Blu-ray or DVD player. "In fact, the hardware and formats can be so similar to current optical storage technologies that future micro-holographic players will enable consumers to play back their CDs, DVDs and BDs," Lorraine said.

GE's research and licensing teams plan to sample media to qualified companies interested in licensing its proprietary holographic data storage platform, a portfolio that includes materials, discs, optical systems for manufacturing and optical drive technologies.

"This latest breakthrough in Holographic Data Storage represents a significant step forward on the path to commercializing this technology," said William Kernick, Vice President of Technology Ventures for GE. "We are looking forward to engaging with strategic industry partners to create an exciting new solution in the marketplace."

About Holographic storage

Holographic storage is different from today's optical storage formats like DVDs and Blu-ray discs. DVDs and Blu-ray discs store information only on up to four layers at the surface of the disc; holographic storage technology uses the entire volume of the disc material. Holograms, or three-dimensional patterns that represent bits of information, are written into the disc at controlled depths, and can then be read out. Because micro-holographic discs can use the entire volume of the material, their storage capacity is much greater than existing storage technologies today. GE's breakthrough material, when used in a disc, will match the capacity of 20 single-layer Blu-ray discs, 100 DVDs or the hard drive of most laptop computers.

Holographic data storage is a challenging technical problem at the interface of chemistry, materials processing, optics and electrical engineering, and there is no place better equipped to tackle such a multi-disciplinary technical problem than GE Global Research. Over the years, the team has made a series of critical inventions: threshold behavior demonstration in holographic materials in 2006, high reflectivity to enable the storage of up to 500 GB of data in a single CD-size disc in 2009 and recent demonstration of improved sensitivity to allow fast data recording speeds.

Commercial viability of a micro- holographic material hinges on two performance parameters - Hologram reflectivity and material sensitivity in addition to the ease of handling and processing into the disc form-factor. Hologram reflectivity represents how much data can be recorded and the material sensitivity characterizes how fast the data can be recorded into the material. The higher the sensitivity, the faster the recording speed. GE claims that latest breakthrough represents a 100x enhancement in material sensitivity, building upon the reflectivity performance demonstrated in 2009. With this breakthrough, the micro-holographic threshold material can support data recording at the same speed as Blu-ray discs which renders micro-holographic technology more poised than ever for success. Additionally, micro-holographic data storage provides data access and transfer rates greater than those attained by traditional optical storage formats. With higher recording speeds required in the professional archival industry, this latest breakthrough by GE researchers will also advance the company's interests in commercializing GE's micro-holographic technology.

GE has been working on holographic storage technology for over eight years. The demonstration of materials that can support 500 gigabytes of capacity and recording at speeds matching today's existing storage technologies are both major milestones. These achievements have been made through the collaborative efforts of a cross-functional team of scientists and engineers from the Applied Optics and Functional Materials labs. Ultimately, the team is working toward micro-holographic discs that can store more than one terabyte, or 1,000 gigabytes of data.

While GE is initially focused on the commercial archival industry, recent advancements have its micro-holographic storage technology poised to hit the consumer market.

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