Sony develops 25GB paper disc

Sony is working on a paper Blu-ray disc that will hold 25GB of data, as Sanyo looks to develop a rewriteable version of its corn-based CD, which went on sale recently

Sony and Toppan Printing are making a new mark on Blu-ray disc technology. The two companies have been working for about a year on printing data onto Blu-ray discs made mostly of paper. The companies are aiming to produce lower-cost discs and expand the use of the technology.

Sony and Toppan announced the 25GB discs Thursday and said more details will be revealed at the Optical Data Storage conference this weekend in Monterey, California. The discs will be able to store more than two hours of high-definition video. Representatives from both companies were not available to comment on their plans.

The Blu-ray Disc format uses blue laser light and is considered a successor to today's red-laser DVD drives. Blu-ray discs can store more than five times the capacity of current DVDs.

Blu-ray disc drives are just starting to hit the market. Sony introduced a Blu-ray drive in Japan last year.

Toppan said the paper discs add a level of security in some cases. "Since a paper disc can be cut by scissors easily, it is simple to preserve data security when disposing of the disc," Hideaki Kawai, managing director of Toppan, said in a statement.

Sony is part of a group of companies called the Blu-ray Disc Founders that promote the Blu-ray Disc format. Others include Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, LG Electronics, Matsushita Electric Industrial, Pioneer, Royal Philips Electronics, Samsung Electronics, Sharp, Sony and Thomson.

Another group, including Toshiba and NEC, have been working on a competing blue laser disc technology. Their technology is designed to be compatible with current DVD standards.

Toppan and Sony said they plan to develop the disc for practical use. Other companies have already made headway in creating discs using organic materials. Sanyo's MildDisc, which launched in early April, is made from polyactic acid derived from corn kernels. Although the disc is currently only available as a CD, Sanyo said it is working on a recordable version.

This method, which has been researched over the past few years by Sanyo, has been developed to replace the polycarbonate used in most discs today. Polycarbonate discs need intense heat to incinerate them, and the chemicals released during this process contribute to air pollution. In addition, they are not biodegradable.

Sanyo's MildDisc can be broken down into water and carbon dioxide by microorganisms in the ground, according to Sanyo. The company says that no harmful dioxins are released during incineration, which can be achieved at much lower temperatures than for polycarbonate discs.

One ear of corn can produce ten discs, according to Sanyo. The MildDisc currently costs about three times as much as traditional CDs and is only available in bulk to trade.