Prototype holographic storage device unveiled

High-capacity drives that use '3D pages' to store data could be on sale before the end of 2006

Holographic storage devices could be on sale within two years, according to US firm and Bell Labs spin-off InPhase Technologies which demonstrated a prototype holographic drive this week.

InPhase says this prototype will be the foundation of its forthcoming Tapestry range of holographic drives, which it plans to launch commercially before the end of next year, according to reports, with data capacities ranging from 200GB to 1.6TB on a single disk.

Tapestry has been under development for several years, and this isn't the first time that InPhase has claimed that it is close to commercial deployment. Back in 2002, it showed off a prototype holographic video recorder based on Tapestry which it said would ship in volume in 2004.

Although this hasn't happened, InPhase is still bullish about the future of its holographic kit.

"The InPhase prototype drive serves as the mile marker on the path to commercialisation of holographic storage," said Nelson Diaz, chief executive of InPhase Technologies, in a statement.

"This technology offers the highest density and performance of any optical system and will assume a prominent role in the storage landscape," Diaz added.

InPhase's holographic technology stores data in 3D holograms within a 1.5mm strip of photopolymeric material that sits within a disk or cartridge. This technique allows more data to be fitted onto a disk because it makes use of its full depth, rather than just recording onto its surface.

Over one million bits of data can be stored within a "3D page", which InPhase says can be read or written in a single flash of the drive's laser. This means its Tapestry range should offer very high-speed access as well as large capacity.

One of the principle hurdles encountered by researchers developing holographic storage techniques is creating a suitable storage medium. InPhase's product is based on research carried out at Bell Labs.