Maxell to launch holographic storage next year

The technology dream of storing terabytes of data on a single disk has taken a step closer to reality

Information storage media company Maxell has said it will launch its first holographic storage products in September 2006. The first drive will have a capacity of 300GB and a throughput of 160Mbps.

Holographic storage works by storing information using light-sensitive crystals. Because it uses the whole volume of the disk, not just the surface, it's possible to store much more information than is possible on a DVD.

With a single holographic disk able to store 1.6 million high-resolution colour photos or over 240 hours of TV broadcast, holographic storage is starting to draw the attention of many in the IT industry.

"Holographic media makes it possible for millions of pages of information and high definition images to be held on one small, relatively inexpensive disc," said Steven Pofcher, senior marketing manager at Maxell.

"Imagine having a person's entire medical history, complete with MRI images, or storing a broadcast network's entire HD [high-definition] Library on a single disc. These are both possible with holographic technology, which has such large capacity that approximately half a million 300-page books can be stored on a single disc."

Holographic recording technology uses intersecting signal and reference laser beams to store data in a number of 3D holographic images.

According to Maxell, one 13cm optical disc can store up to 150 million pages — more than 63 times the capacity of DVD.

Earlier this month, Turner Entertainment's vice-president of broadcast technology Ron Tarasoff said his company is planning to sell holographic disks that will retail for $100, and which in five years time will have a capacity of 1.6TB each.

"That's pretty inexpensive," said Tarasoff. "Even the first versions can store 300GB per disk, and it has 160Mbps data throughput rates. That's burning. Then combine it with random access, and it's the best of all worlds."

The technology also has an impressive lineage. Hitachi-owned Maxell is working with InPhase Technologies, a subsidiary of Lucent, which has led development of holographic media.

Maxell's proposed holographic storage diskMaxell's proposed holographic storage disk drive
The proposed disk and drive