Two years ago, GE announced they were working on a prototype form of storage that used micro-holographic technology crammed 500 GB onto an optical disc. Now they're able to write data onto those discs at speeds equivalent to a Blu-ray burner.
Yes, physical media is losing relevance in our day to day lives with the rise of streaming technologies and flash storage. Coming in a DVD-sized form factor, this new technology won't change that declining trend. But this micro-holographic technology is intended for long term archival purposes. Something, that if properly taken care of, will keep its data intact for a hundred years.
Here's the gist of the technology as explained by Peter Lorraine, who manages the Optical Research unit at GE: The disc is a polycarbonate material with millions of the micro-holograms stamped onto the disc. When the light source—whose beam is the same wavelength as that of a Blu-ray drive— hits the disc, it erases the necessary amount of holograms to represent the data its recording. Theoretically, consumer drives in the future could be backwards compatible with the Blu-ray format.
The burn speeds are considerably faster than they were during the initial GE announcement two years ago. GE attributes this to a 100x increase in the sensitivity of the holograms, making the recording process more power efficient. But instead of just using less power, they upped the rate at which data is written onto the disc. According to Lorraine, they're seeing write speeds around 4-5 MB/s, which puts it on par with a Blu-ray disc.
Granted, those write speeds mean it would probably take at least a day to fill up a 500GB disc, but Lorraine mentioned that since its initial use will be for archival purposes, there could be specialized drives with multiple write heads. And in time, the technology will certainly get faster.
What does this mean for the average techie? Maybe nothing. Maybe in a few years, you'll stash all your photos, videos, and music on a single disc without fear of it wearing out, corrupting, or dying in a matter of years. It's also possible that the technology could be reappropriated into other forms of data storage, but nobody at GE has even begun to think that far ahead. [GE]