A groundbreaking study from Chinese scientists reveals a revolutionary optical disc, the size of a DVD, capable of storing over 1 million gigabits, transcending the limitations of traditional two-dimensional data storage. The innovation involves encoding data in three dimensions on 100 layers of optical discs, setting a new standard for data density.

Traditional optical discs, such as CDs and DVDs, encode data using microscopic pits representing binary code. Prior attempts to increase their capacity involved multiple layers, but the size limitations of optics hindered progress. The Chinese researchers overcame this challenge by developing a disc with 100 layers, utilizing spots as small as 54 nanometers, a significant advancement over the wavelengths of visible light.

A DVD-size version of this groundbreaking disc boasts a staggering capacity of up to 1.6 petabits, surpassing Blu-ray discs by 4,000 times in data density and outperforming the most advanced hard disks by 24 times. The implications are vast, with the potential for an exabit storage data center to fit inside a room instead of a large stadium-sized space.

Min Gu, a professor at the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, emphasizes the viability of employing this ultrahigh-density optical data storage technology in big data centers. The key to this innovation lies in the use of a novel light-sensitive material, AIE-DDPR, capable of diverse responses to different light wavelengths. This material allows for precise control over the writing and reading processes in a three-dimensional geometry.

The data encoding strategy involves a pair of lasers—a green laser triggering spot formation and a red laser switching off the writing process. To read the data, a blue laser makes spots fluoresce, while an orange laser switches off the fluorescence process. This intricate process relies on the unique properties of AIE-DDPR, making nanoscale writing, recoding, and reading processes effective across all layers.

The researchers successfully encoded data on layers separated by 1 micrometer, ensuring consistent writing quality across all layers. The entire process, from creating blank discs with AIE-DDPR films to mass production, is compatible with conventional DVD production and can be completed within 6 minutes, making commercial scalability feasible.

While the current writing speed stands at 100 milliseconds with a modest energy consumption, the researchers are actively working on improving these aspects. Future enhancements may include exploring more energy-efficient recording materials and increasing the number of layers per disc with improved optics. The researchers envision their innovation playing a pivotal role in transforming big data centers, pushing the boundaries of data storage technology.

By Impact Lab