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Tiny Disc, Massive Storage Capacity: The Promise Of Hyper CD

A new type of archival storage technology has been developed with the potential to store a petabyte of data on a CD-sized disc disk yet remain backward-compatible with existing CD and DVD technologies.

A new type of archival storage technology has been developed with the potential to store a petabyte of data on a CD-sized disc disk yet remain backward-compatible with existing CD and DVD technologies.

However, while the technology has been demonstrated, actual production is still awaiting funding.

That technology, Hyper CD, is the brainchild of Dr. Eugen Pavel, CEO of Storex, a Bucharest, Romania and Wilmington, Del.-based company, which was founded in 2007.

Pavel has spent spent years in materials research. For a time, he was a professor at the Bucharest Polytechnic Institute. He was also involved in the semiconductor industry.

"I love computers and data storage," he said. "I thought it would be a good idea to develop a multi-layer disc disk to store large quantities of data."

Hyper CD is a tridimensional multilayer optical memory based on controlled fluorescence intensity. The Hyper CD disk is the same size as an existing CD or DVD disk, but instead of having a front and back layer of data, data on the new technology is stored on thousands of layers, with the reading and writing done using laser diodes.

In terms of optical disc disk capacity, Hyper CD compares most closely to holographic technologies such as the 300-GB-per-disck Tapestry 300R produced by InPhase Technologies. However, Pavel said, Hyper CD is not holographic technology.

In order to gain the level of storage density needed to put a petabyte on a standard optical disk, Hyper-CD technology broke the diffraction limit of 0.1 micron of holographic storage. Diffraction limit is the point at which imperfections in lenses or alignment negatively impact the resolution of an optical system.

"How did I do it? I don't know the recording mechanism in detail, but I'm working on publishing a paper to explore this topic," Pavel said.

Hyper CD technology will be backward-compatible with today's CD and DVD technology, as it uses the same red laser as DVD drives. However, it will not be backward-compatible with Blu-Ray, which uses a blue laser.

Because the Hyper CD technology uses many of the same components as today's DVD storage technology, a Hyper CD drive would be the same size as a DVD drive, and could be produced at a similar cost, Pavel said.

Media costs would also be very low, Pavel said. The disks could be manufactured by optical glass producers with very little modification to existing production lines. Storex is currently discussing production with German-based Schott. US-based Corning would also be able to produce the media once it received the Hyper CD specifications.

Pavel declined to discuss the actual cost of producing the drives and media. He also declined to speculate on the price once it hits the market. "The price will be established by the market, not according to production costs," he said.

Storex has already finished development of the technology for Hyper CD, but has yet to build a commercial working version of the drive. The company has demonstrated the technology using a table-sized device full of wires, electronics, lasers, and an oscilloscope, and plans to build a working drive as soon as possible.

Production of the drives and media, which Pavel said will hopefully be done in the U.S., depends on when funding becomes available. So far, Storex has received about $1.5 million in investment from family, friends, and partners, and is looking for investments of at least $5 million in order to get production started.

Storex is targeting a number of potential markets which that require long-term archiving of large amounts of data.

"The main application is for backup and archiving," Pavel said. "Today, there are big problems with backups. Tape is not the solution for medium or long-term archiving. And hard drives are not a good solution for storing data five or more years because you have to plug them in often to make sure they work. It's a joke to consider storing tens or hundreds of petabytes on hard drives."

Businesses also should not expect future storage clouds will to be able to handle the backing up and archiving of large data stores.

"The cloud needs networks with a lot of hard drives. That's a solution for archiving and backup? I don't think so," he said.

Potential markets for Hyper CD include governmental organizations, financial institutions, and even movie companies, Pavel said.

"Movie archives need to be renewed every few years, but some information gets lost with every renewal," he said. "So after a few decades or 100 years, you could lose a movie. The average movie requires 10 to 20 TBs of storage. You need ten 10 or 20 hard drives to store one movie in digital format."

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