GE announces 500 GB holographic disc writer that runs at Blue-Ray speed

July 21, 2011 by Bob Yirka report
A prototype holographic drive system designed by GE researchers in the Applied Optics Lab at GE Global Research in Niskayuna, NY.

( -- GE's technology research group has announced the development of an optical disc writer capable of writing 500 GB of data onto a disc the same physical size as a DVD, at roughly the same speed as Blue Ray technology. This comes two years after announcing the holographic technology that was used to first imprint the discs with 25 times as much data as a Blue Ray Disc can hold.

By making an announcement about an advancement in what most see as a dying technology, GE is taking somewhat of a risk, but Peter Lorraine, Manager at GE Global Research, who will be presenting today at the IEEE's Joint International Symposium on & Optical Data Storage meeting is expected to pooh-pooh such notions and instead explain how the new technology could be used for long term storage for data, that the company says, will last for a hundred years (presumably if stored in ideal conditions).

The technology works by initially stamping millions of tiny holographic images into a polycarbonate (a type of thermoplastic polymer) material, then a laser (which uses the same wavelength as Blue Ray technology) is used to erase parts of the holograms to encode data. Write speeds are 4-5 megabytes per second, which is on a par with Blue Ray (4.5 Mbytes/s). With this process the entire surface of the disc can be used, rather than just the four layers on the surface of the disc that Blue Ray is able to use, which is why it can hold so much more.

And while critics point out that at such a rate it would take something like a whole day to fill the disc, GE counters by saying that since its primary purpose would be for archival storage, creating specialized writers that use multiple heads could very well be an option; and If such multiple read/write head drives could be created, it seems plausible to believe that such discs would be capable of carrying not just HD/3-D movies, but something even better, such as movies in a super HD (holographic?) format that hasn’t even been discovered yet.

GE also points out that because the new writer uses the same wavelength as Blue Ray, its conceivable drives could be made for the new technology that would be backwards compatible, minimizing risk for both developers and end users. The company is expected to begin building arrangements with interested parties to license the new technology in just the new few months, so actual products appearing on the market can’t be too far off.

Explore further: General Electric Develops a 500GB Optical Disc

More information: Press release

Related Stories

General Electric Develops a 500GB Optical Disc

April 27, 2009

( -- G.E. has unveiled a 500 GB micro-holographic disc that is the same size as existing DVD's. The storage capacity is equivalent to 100 DVD's and is aimed at the archive industry but eventually can be used in ...

Recommended for you

A not-quite-random walk demystifies the algorithm

December 15, 2017

The algorithm is having a cultural moment. Originally a math and computer science term, algorithms are now used to account for everything from military drone strikes and financial market forecasts to Google search results.

US faces moment of truth on 'net neutrality'

December 14, 2017

The acrimonious battle over "net neutrality" in America comes to a head Thursday with a US agency set to vote to roll back rules enacted two years earlier aimed at preventing a "two-speed" internet.

FCC votes along party lines to end 'net neutrality' (Update)

December 14, 2017

The Federal Communications Commission repealed the Obama-era "net neutrality" rules Thursday, giving internet service providers like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T a free hand to slow or block websites and apps as they see fit ...

The wet road to fast and stable batteries

December 14, 2017

An international team of scientists—including several researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory—has discovered an anode battery material with superfast charging and stable operation ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1.2 / 5 (5) Jul 21, 2011
such as movies in a super HD (holographic?) format that hasnt even been discovered yet.

And maybe even cure cancer!
2.6 / 5 (5) Jul 21, 2011
Isn't it called Blu-ray?
not rated yet Jul 21, 2011
As long as the read speed is a good 50MB / sec , the write speed isn't much of a problem since most people will probably use "pressed" or "holostamped" disks and not burnt ones.

The fact that no major brands like Sony , etc. are behind this means the technology sounds like it'll go the way of "Magneto-Optical" media.. Yet another technology that time forgot but which some business still use cause they are locked in to it.
3.5 / 5 (2) Jul 21, 2011
Still not buying anymore optical crap.
5 / 5 (4) Jul 21, 2011
Optical is dead. I used to back up a ton of data on cd and then dvd discs. It was a slow, arduous process and having a disc fail on you was very annoying. Plus retrieving the information was just as slow and painful.

I waited for a long time for discs to increase in volume size and read/write speeds but that never happened, because of the nature of this technology. Plus the newer discs (like blu-ray) always remained too expensive for too long-including the writers/burners. Otherwise I might've kept investing in this technology. Perhaps the gov't/corporations could use it for archiving data but for us consumers, it is obsolete.

A hard-drive stores far more information, best of all it can be retrieved very quickly. Now they just need to build hdd's that last a hundred or a thousand years and we're set. Of course it'd be best if they were cheap solid state (ssd) because mechanical drives (optical/hdd) always die eventually.
5 / 5 (2) Jul 21, 2011
Well, I guess we need something to back up our multi-terabyte hard drives...
not rated yet Jul 21, 2011
CDs were a stupid idea in the first place. They were touted as a replacement for cassettes, but were equally unreliable. I still cringe every time I hear a CD skipping. The only good thing about them is being able to skip a head without waiting for fast forward.

I don't buy computers with optical drives any more. It's been about 2 years since I last had need to use an optical disk.
5 / 5 (4) Jul 21, 2011
A few comments...
It's not Blu-Ray... it only uses the same type of laser.
GE is bigger than Sony.
Hard-drives are NOT a solution for archival backup... it's way too expensive and too volatile. I assume you know the difference between a backup copy and archival storage...
not rated yet Jul 21, 2011
personally i would utilize the technology. as keihin has noted, the discs would be particularly useful for backing up large amounts of data.
5 / 5 (1) Jul 21, 2011
Hard-drives are NOT a solution for archival backup... it's way too expensive and too volatile. I assume you know the difference between a backup copy and archival storage...

Absolutely. Which is why these will be great for enterprise and public orgs that need archival storage, but as a consumer solution it'll never take off. Consumers hardly ever need more than backup copies (and that's when they even bother to backup) and for that portable TB USB 3 drives have more space, are much, much faster, more convienent and in laptop external drive size actually take up about the same amount of shelf space than an optical disk does in its case. 5 yrs ago this would have been great; in 2011/2012 it's just not that relevent anymore.
3 / 5 (2) Jul 21, 2011
500GB equals 500K MB. At 4.5 MB/sec, that means it would take **30 hrs.** to write the 500GB. Did I miss something? That seems terribly inconvenient!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.