Are optical drives dead? New and not so technologies for archival data storage

It has been a long time since Hubra published news about breakthroughs in data storage technology using optical disks. That’s understandable – hard disks, high-capacity SSDs and, of course, tape drives (in some cases) have taken over the storage market. Nevertheless, the technology is not dead, and it is now known to continue to evolve.

On top of that, research into storage with other materials and systems is continuing, for better or for worse. Let’s take a look at what is now known about optical disks and if there are any significant advances.

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Cheap 1TB Multi-Layer Optical Drive

Just the other day it became known that Folio Photonics, which, by the way, has been around for about 10 years, offers a new type of data storage. More precisely, as a new – it is an optical disk, but multi-layer, this technology is called DFD. According to the developers, the discs are relatively easy to make, easy to store, plus such a “data bank” is not subject to electromagnetic interference.

The new format is called Active, which is important – the disks are rewritable, so they can be used many times. The company claims a capacity of 1 TB, plus it also made specialized cartridges that work with 10 disks at a time.



The expected read speed is about 365 Mbytes per second, but there’s no word yet on the write speed. Now the technology is in the experimental stage, so the new drives will not go on sale in the next few months. But it seems that there is progress in the development of this project – pilot production is scheduled for 2024. The cost per drive, according to representatives of the company, will be only $5, which is much cheaper than all other drives. True, of course, here still would know the price of the drives themselves – the cartridges. If they will cost as much as a downed Boeing, then there is no point in such technology.

But the company claims that everything will be available, plus the storage of data on such drives, provided they are archived, will be cheaper than with HDD. It is claimed that archival hard drives consume about 80 percent more power, all other things being equal.



The technology itself is not for ordinary users, but for companies that need to store huge amounts of data, while preferably with a low cost of storage and operation. The company also claims that the life of one such drive is about 100 years, they are, understandably, unaffected not only by electromagnetic fields, but also by water, high (relatively) and low temperatures.

As for the mass availability of disks, rather than experimental devices, the company plans to produce them by 2026. Here, of course, we can recall the story of donkey’s speech training, when “either the donkey dies, or the Padishah dies”, but still we would like to hope for the best. Alternative technologies are not a bad thing at all.

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Folio Photonics is not alone. There are also 700TB optical drives.

Yes, similar projects have been announced by other companies as well. Just a year ago, for example, a joint team of engineers and scientists from Shanghai Polytechnic University and Melbourne Institute of Technology announced the development of a 700TB laser disk.

The scientists, supported by colleagues from the National University of Singapore, were able to accommodate the usual size of 700 TB of data on the drive. The disk has a diameter of 120 mm – the current standard for almost any optical disk, including CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray disks.



The four-layer Blu-ray disc is currently the highest capacity disc, capable of holding 128GB of data. A standard single-layer Blu-ray disc, on the other hand, can hold no more than 25GB of data. So one new drive replaces 28,000 single-layer Blu-ray discs.

As for hard drives and SSDs, the highest-capacity drives can accommodate several tens of terabytes of data. But as far as we know, the contenders for the leadership have not yet reached even the 100 TB mark. And here we have 700 terabytes at once.

The main secret here is in the material on which the recording is made. This is not thin metal foil, but a composite material. Scientists do not reveal all the secrets, because they plan to commercialize the technology. But it is known that it is a nanocomposite based on special particles with the addition of lanthanide with “flakes” of graphene oxide.

Another feature is permanent lasers. In all other cases pulsed lasers are used.

The technology developed by scientists can be used in mass production of optical media. However, the authors of the development have not yet told either about at least an approximate order of prices, or about how much money and other resources are needed to start production. So it seems that a year has passed since the project was announced, but it is still there. Probably, the development was left on the list of experiments, which are unlikely to get out “in public”.

And then there is quartz!

For about 10 years, several teams of scientists in different countries are working in parallel over the technology of recording data on a quartz carrier. This first became known in 2013. At that time, the inventors said that information is recorded in “memory crystals” made of quartz with five different characteristics. These include coordinates in three dimensions, orientation and volume. The last two characteristics are set by the polarization and intensity of the laser beam.

Among the commercial companies engaged in a similar project are Microsoft and Warner Bros. They were able to create a quartz drive with a size of 75×75 mm and a thickness of 2 mm. It is worth noting that this technology is not for ordinary users, not for distribution to home media libraries. Rather, it is for corporations, and data can be stored for millions of years.

Despite the fact that the technology is still developing, it is happening in the depths of the R&D departments of these companies. So far, it is also not widespread, but here, perhaps, the complexity of working with the medium and the cost of recording and reading devices play an important role.

In general, there are other companies that are developing optical storage technology. But these are still less well-known projects, which still exist in the form of scientific works and the very first experimental models. Of course, we would like to hope that some of the above-mentioned projects will still “shoot out” and be able to change the current configuration of the data storage market.

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