High-Density Storage Shows Promise

Japanese researchers have developed a digital storage device the size of a laserdisc with a capacity of 200 gigabytes, Reuters news service reported August 25. 200GB is more than 40 times the capacity of a DVD's 4.7GB—enough to put 40 two-hour movies on a 12-inch disc.

The advancement is the work of a research unit of the Japanese government-funded Science and Technology Agency. Prototypes of the new disc and disc drive are expected within a couple of years, according to Nobufumi Atoda, top scientist at the National Institute for Advanced Interdisciplinary Research. Sharp Corporation and other Japanese companies will try to build consumer products around the new storage medium, the report noted. Similar research is being carried out by IBM in the US.

200GB on a 12-inch disc is pretty amazing, but how about 100GB in an area smaller than a postage stamp? That's the density level claimed by researchers at Keele University in Great Britain, who have developed a multilayer memory technology that may be capable of as much as 2300GB of rewritable storage on a medium the size of a credit card. The work was led by Ted Williams, now a professor emeritus of electronic engineering at Keele. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Williams was instrumental in developing the nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) devices now in widespread medical use.

Williams' memory device is made of new metal alloys and requires a finely focused laser to read it. Access time is said to be 100MB per second. Keele High Density Ltd., the company formed as a joint venture with Keele University and London-based venture capital firm Cavendish Management Resources Ltd., predicted that production costs for a 2300GB credit-card-sized memory will be less than $50, according to an August 23 report by Peter Clarke on the Electronic Engineering Times website. Mike Downey, managing director of Cavendish, said many details about the memory system are being kept secret as Keele High Density begins licensing discussions with manufacturers.