What Are Holographic Discs?

Lakshmi Sandhana

Holographic discs are optical storage devices, similar to standard DVD discs, that can store huge amounts of information. The goal of many companies in this industry is to produce discs that can store up to one terabyte of information. The process involves recording data in the form of three-dimensional patterns onto discs that are made of materials with high reflective indexes. Lasers are used to read the data from the disc, which acts like a mirror. The difference between holographic discs and DVDs and Blu-ray discs is that the information is recorded throughout the entire disk in layers, resulting in very high information density.

Woman holding a disc
Woman holding a disc

This is a sharp contrast from existing technologies that only record data on the surfaces of discs. This is still a developing technology, and while many companies are in the field, holographic discs have not yet been released commercially at the time of this writing. One prominent company has been able to demonstrate recording 500 GB of information on a single holographic disc. In practical terms, it means that a disc of this type can store the data contained in around 100 DVDs or 20 single-layer Blu-ray discs. Double the storage capacity with a fast bit transfer rate is the holy grail of many holographic storage technology developers.

Entrpreneurs are developing the system to be backward compatible so that holographic disc players can also read CDs, Blu-ray discs, and DVDs. When the technology matures, a single holographic disc with a one-terabyte capacity could in theory store a person's entire high-definition movie collection. Marketed as an economical alternative to current storage technologies, its developers hope that holographic discs will emerge as a reliable form of making backups. The initial costs are expected to be quite huge with disc players costing in the range of $20,000 US Dollars (USD) and a single disc costing $50 to $150 USD. Many believe that significant amounts of competition and mass production will drive the price of holographic discs down over time.

Holographic discs and players are initially being targeted at the archiving industry where data needs to be stored long term. Movie studios and medical offices need to store data in an indestructible format, but it is extremely challenging with present-day technologies, which have limited shelf lives. The process of storing information in the form of holograms within a disc as well as in every layer of the disc make it a very robust data storage solution. Ultimately, developers hope to create affordable next-generation holographic discs and players that can be used by the average consumer.

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