'5D' storage could hold 10,000 times more data than a Blu-ray disc

Advanced technology that creates DVDs and Blurays can store more data. However, it takes some time.
A 1-inch square of glass can hold 6 gigabytes of data Yuhao Lei & Peter G. Kazansky (University of Southampton).

Although a new way to write data onto glass with lasers is possible, it can store only 500 terabytes of data on one optical disc. However, its potential applications are limited because it takes so much time to create.

This technique is similar to optical media but can store 10,000x more data than Blu-ray disks. The laser emits pulses every femtosecond for 1 quadrillionths of a second to make tiny holes in glass.

Yuhao Lei, University of Southampton, UK and his collaborators call it five-dimensional (5D), optical data storage. This is because the method uses two optical dimensions based on the intensity and polarization of light to record data.


The researchers were able to fit 6 gigabytes worth of data onto a 1-inch-square of glass. According to Lei, they were able to read the data back with a precision of 96.3 to 99.5 percent. This accuracy could be increased to 100 percent with an error correction algorithm.

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He says that writing speed is the main challenge. They could only write 225kilobytes per second. This meant that 6 gigabytes would have taken around 6 hours. Parallel writing is not possible at the moment. This is where multiple laser beams are used to write on the material. We are working to improve that.

Peter Kazansky, a University of Southampton team member, said that the data storage is extremely durable and can withstand extreme temperatures. This means it can last almost forever.

Kazansky says that small adjustments could make writing speeds four times faster. However, he isn't sure if this could increase errors. Lei says that the goal is to create a storage system for national archives.

It is amazing to see the seemingly vast improvements in write speeds and overall performance of this storage technology within a laboratory environment in just few years, says Ben FinoRadin, of Small Data Industries in New York. He points to a 75-fold improvement over a previous version of the technique which could only write at 3kilobytes per sec in 2017. It is not clear what role 5D glass storage might play in the future.

Journal reference: Optica, DOI: 10.1364/OPTICA.433765