Lucent, Imation to develop holographic storage

Posted on October 01, 1999

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Lucent, Imation to develop holographic storage

Zachary Shess

After more than 30 years in development, a working prototype of a removable, holographic disk drive may be produced within two years, say officials with Imation Corp. and Lucent Technologies. Under a recent agreement, Lucent`s Bell Labs research arm in Murray Hill, NJ, will develop the drive technology while Oakdale, MN-based Imation will produce the media.

Holographic storage has long intrigued the disk drive industry because of the promise of enormous capacity. With today`s Internet and data-warehousing applications routinely consuming terabytes of data, both companies anticipate users will need the expected 125GB-capacity of a removable 5.25-inch holographic drive.

Instead of recording just on the disk`s surface, holographic technology uses the entire thickness of the recording material to obtain these high capacities. Storing and accessing data in this "page format" is also expected to boost transfer rates to up to one million bits per request.

In the future, Lucent and Imation anticipate that transfer rates--not just capacities--will win over storage administrators since other optical technologies, such as magneto-optical, theoretically may have similar storage densities.

"The problem with those other technologies is that there`s no way to make transfer rates appreciably faster," says Kevin Curtis, Bell Labs` holographic storage project leader. "For transaction-intensive applications, if you don`t increase the transfer rates with the densities, you`re essentially making the data less accessible."

Both Lucent and Imation believe recent technological developments by Bell Labs make holographic storage a viable, commercial option. For example, after many years of working with rewritable, photo-refractive crystals, researchers today use a photo polymer. The polymer is less expensive and has better recording sensitivity and dynamic range.

While officials on both sides are reluctant to predict when volume shipments could begin, they hope to have a working prototype sometime in 2001. Once a prototype is created, volume shipments would commence in another 18 to 24 months, says Curtis.


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