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Pioneer Ultraviolet Laser Promises 500GB Discs 298

Posted by samzenpus
from the i-love-lasers dept.
No Fortune writes "Here's an article indicating that Pioneer is developing an ultraviolet laser for data storage. Since the wavelength of ultraviolet lasers is shorter than the wavelength of blue lasers, the beams are finer and they can pack more data into per square inch. This gives a data rate 20 times more than the blue laser Blue-ray disk."
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Pioneer Ultraviolet Laser Promises 500GB Discs

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @08:51PM (#10782949)
    Microsoft Gamma Laser Promises 500 PB Discs

    Here's an article indicating that Microsoft is developing a gamma laser [theinquirer.net] for data storage. Since the wavelength of gamma lasers is shorter than the wavelength of ultraviolet lasers, the beams are finer and they can pack more data into per square inch. This gives a data rate 1,000,000 times more than the ultraviolet laser discs.
    • by SpookyFish (195418) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @08:55PM (#10782980)

      Sweet, so Office XP 2k13 will still fit on one disc!
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Yes, but users will get so frustrated during the installation and multiple activation steps, that they'll turn green, grow huge muscles, and trash everything in site.
      • I know that this is supposed to be funny (it is funny). But I just have to point out that 2k13 takes the same number of characters as 2013, and is more ambiguous. Its kind of like saying WWII instead of World War II (double-ewe has more sylables than either world or war, so actually saying the abbreviation is less efficent than saying the actual name).

        • Yeah, I hear ya. Lol, I admit I actually typed it that way and a couple others, and it just didn't "feel" right.. The 'k' seemed to give a nice break to it. Of course, by 2013 it won't sound as odd.

          As for syllables, I guess I should add that "two.kay.thir.teen" is as efficient as "twen.tee.thir.teen" :)
      • Sweet, so Office XP 2k13 will still fit on one disc!

        You're assuming MSFT still pushes out Office by 2k13? Hell no, Tux won't let that happen!

    • No, I just want the soft-x-ray laser - and we know nobody'll be wasting their time using it to read discs when they can go one better than the Sony "see through clothing" camcorder.
    • Here's an article indicating that Microsoft is developing a gamma laser for data storage.

      Unfortunately, thee authors fail to mention that several manufacturers have already reduced the amount of shielding for their laptop systems and are instead advising users to minimize their contact with the system to not more than 0.1 Roentgens in any 24 hour period (The actual energy strength of the beam can be found beside the gamma laser lens. However, such an event should not occur unless large numbers of discs a
    • Good lord please stop innovating new forms of storage that could potentially force more money out of my wallet! There's been, what, six different mass storage devices touted here in as many months? I can't take it anymore, I'm in a purchasing coma from all the possibilities on the horizon.

      Ah, with all the exciting technological discoveries and such happening recently it's starting to look like Terrance Mckenna may be right. Timewave Zero anyone? : )

    • How come a HDD with several platters still haven't reached 500GB yes (that I'm aware of), but a "DVD" recorded with light can!? I would've thought that the lazer would've been much wider than the magnetic tracks on a HDD platter.

      Is it simply because a DVD is a lot wider than a HDD platter?

      • In magnetic recording devices, the data density limited by either the size of the head or the size of magnetic domains in the platter material. As I understand it, at this time the platter is the limiting factor. The density on a modern HD platter exceeds that of a CD or DVD disc.

        With optical storage, the data density is limited by the wavelength of the photons interacting with the medium, as well as the detail of the medium itself. A DVD can store more data than a CD because of the smaller wavelength of
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @08:52PM (#10782954)
    Looks like I have to buy the White Album again.
  • So... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    ...what color is it?

    (I'm a fan of blue...)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @08:52PM (#10782962)
    error correcting 15.8 megabytes of obscured data!
  • Bit Rot? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by abrotman (323016) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @08:53PM (#10782966)
    So now i can lose [slashdot.org] 500GB of data?

    I'm moving to punchcards ...
    • Re:Bit Rot? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by frovingslosh (582462) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @09:00PM (#10783036)
      Someone already moderated you funny, but I think it's a real issue. Sure, use UV if it helps, but I would rather have them make the bits a little bigger and a lot more reliable than as small as they can get them and have them rot away. I could live with 100 gig of data on a disc if I could trust it a lot more than 500 gigs on one disc I can't trust.
      • Re:Bit Rot? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dgatwood (11270) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @09:11PM (#10783145) Journal
        Maybe it's just me, but I'd rather them pack as many bits onto the disc as possible, then apply a reasonable error correction scheme to allow for significantly greater damage before data loss occurs.

        Put another way, if you can fit 500G on a disc, you can fit 20 copies of a Blu-Ray disc, so when the first one dies, you have 19 spares. Admittedly, I'm not looking for something -quite- that extreme, but the potential for such high-density optical media in terms of improving reliability is tremendous if the vendors just had the guts to use it for that instead of saying "Ooh, we can fit all 17 seasons of The Simpsons on one disc".

        Just my $0.02.

        • Something like RAID 5 on a single disk (of 5-20 partitions) perhaps?
        • Re:Bit Rot? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by schtum (166052) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:18PM (#10783649)
          Maybe it's just me, but I'd rather them pack as many bits onto the disc as possible, then apply a reasonable error correction scheme...

          It's not just you. The grandparent suggested making each bit in the disc larger than normal. You suggest duplicating each bit several times. Put the duplicate bits in a row instead of randomly scattered (reducing seek time when they are needed) and your solutions are virtually identical.

          Then again, scattering the bits would make the disc more robust, since one scratch would be less likely to wipe out a given bit and all of it's duplicates. So... yeah. Go patent that. =)
  • How long is it going to take them to pack it into a consumer device? That's always been the real question. Maybe there's no point to blu-ray.

    Now that I've paused to read the article...

    The article only discusses write techniques. I'd like to hear if there are any peculiarities involved in reading it before I make guesses as to the delay before production. I'd also like to know if they only have a tube or if they have a diode already.

    • by Christopher Thomas (11717) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:07PM (#10783578)
      The article only discusses write techniques. I'd like to hear if there are any peculiarities involved in reading it before I make guesses as to the delay before production. I'd also like to know if they only have a tube or if they have a diode already.

      You need a laser with comparable or finer wavelength to the writing laser in order to read an optical disc.

      This is almost certainly a frequency-doubled or even frequency-tripled laser, which means it's very power-inefficient (I believe there were old green laser pointers that were frequency-doubled IR; they got awfully warm, as most of the pump beam stayed as IR, and was wasted).

      Source laser isn't mentioned in the short blurb (and the full blurb is subscribers-only), but I'd guess it's an excimer laser similar to the kind used for EUV photolithography, if it can make 70 nm holes. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that it's _exactly_ that type of laser, and that this experiment was done in a photolithography clean room. Excimer lasers are gas lasers that produce output in the near-UV. The 193 nm light used for photolithography a generation or so ago was from frequency-doubled argon fluoride excimer lasers.

      We have UV LEDs, and so presumably low-power UV laser diodes are available in research labs, but getting something that can reliably make holes 70 nm wide would probably take frequency _tripling_ at this point. So I'd put money on a gas laser at the moment, with a tripled blue or violet diode or a doubled intermediate UV diode laser "some time really soon now, honest".

      Producing light of the needed wavelength without frequency doubling would take a pretty exotic material with a bandgap that puts it well into the "insulator with extreme prejudice" range (lots of doping required).
      • I thought that pretty much all green pointers available today were still frequency-doubled DPSS, and that's why they're comparably so expensive?
        • I thought that pretty much all green pointers available today were still frequency-doubled DPSS, and that's why they're comparably so expensive?

          My understanding is that pointers based on green laser diodes have been on the market for a year or two now, but I'd have to doublecheck to find out which models.

          I was actually hunting for a blue pointer for a friend for whom a green pointer would be passe, but those still aren't obtainable (laboratory-grade blue diode lasers run around $2k or so, if memory serve
  • by dustman (34626) <dleary@[ ]c.net ['ttl' in gap]> on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @08:56PM (#10782989)
    People more versed in physics than I am can answer this:

    The lasers used for optical media keep on progressing to higher frequency light, which is better able to resolve things. Where is the likely end for optical media?

    Past ultraviolet light is x-rays and gamma rays I think... Will they be used for optical media? They are known as "dangerous", but perhaps in low power situations they aren't too bad? Or, you could just have the optical drive shielded in lead :)

    Microscopes haved moved past light, into "electron microscopes", which used streams of electrons to resolve things that light cannot. Will that be possible with our optical media techniques?

    • by zx75 (304335) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @09:05PM (#10783103) Homepage
      The limit is defined by the amount of power you can reasonably draw from your system to generate the radiation. Higher frequency means more power is required to generate a 'low-power' beam.

      The other limit is finding a suitably reflective material that is cheap enough to be used as media. X rays pass easily through plastics, and they are absorbed by lead. Gamma rays pass through most kinds of material. You need something that reflects well, and doesn't absorb the radiation, that can also be used to store distinct states and be mass produced easily.
      • The other limit is finding a suitably reflective material that is cheap enough to be used as media. X rays pass easily through plastics, and they are absorbed by lead. Gamma rays pass through most kinds of material. You need something that reflects well, and doesn't absorb the radiation, that can also be used to store distinct states and be mass produced easily.

        If you can produce a finely focused x-ray beam in the reader, you could probably factory-produce extremely high density discs by coating the discs
      • "X rays pass easily through plastics, and they are absorbed by lead. Gamma Rays pass through most kinds of material."

        Plus you failed to mention that exposure to Gamma Rays leads to large, angry green men in super stretchy purple pants and that my friend is where "Cosmic Rays" come in.

        They're totally safe (I think) and there's no telling what we can do with them once they're harnessed. Probably get 500TB on a disc with those babies!

        I'm taking my girlfriend, her brother, and a test pilot I know on a
    • Scene in the future, with a Gamma Radiation drive.

      CD stuck in drive.
      ME: "You wouldn't like it when I'm angry. I have all my data on that cd."

      BARGhhhhhhhhh@#$@#$ [Transforms into Hulk]

      Hulk SMASH!

    • by jd (1658) <imipak&yahoo,com> on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @09:23PM (#10783239) Homepage Journal
      Gamma rays are extremely hard to generate and near-impossible to focus. To the best of my knowledge, artificial systems have not been able to do either to any useful degree.


      X-Rays, on the other hand, are much easier. X-Ray lasers have existed for some time (though they tend to be on the bulky side) and lenses that can focus X-Rays are used.


      However, with X-Rays, you can build systems that don't just rely on reflection (as per traditional optic media). There is a phenominon called X-Ray Fluorescence, in which an atom, when struck by an X-Ray of the right frequency, emits electrons of a specific energy.


      A disk using such a system would need to be layered and etched multiple times, which would make it impossible to write on any kind of domestic scale. However, it would mean that you could have maybe fifty or so "layers" to the disk.


      You couldn't use this to read at the atomic level, but you could use it to determine the quantity of a given isotope. This would let you increase the effective density still further.

    • What about frailty? CD pits are large enough to operate in an environment where dust, dirt, tiny scratches, and other things get onto the surface of the media. But the higher you go, the tighter your tollerances have to go, and the dirt factor isn't going to just go away.

      Ultimately, though, I suspect traditional optical disks will progress for a few more years until they are usurped by holographic or other techniques. It wasn't too long ago that magnetoptical was cutting edge, and magnetic tape was befo
    • People more versed in physics than I am can answer this:

      The lasers used for optical media keep on progressing to higher frequency light, which is better able to resolve things. Where is the likely end for optical media?

      Past ultraviolet light is x-rays and gamma rays I think... Will they be used for optical media? They are known as "dangerous", but perhaps in low power situations they aren't too bad? Or, you could just have the optical drive shielded in lead :)

      Microscopes haved moved past light, into "ele
    • The physical principles for optical discs are fairly simple basically. The difficulty is not that, but in how to use it practically. As in: how to get a working device, what materials to use, how to make it small, how to mass-produce it cheap, how to produce media for it, how to make -R and -RW types of media, how to produce media that record reliably & last. And then there's error correction, logical disc formats, OS support, updating CD-burning apps, etc. etc. All this takes time.

      With shorter wavele

  • by klubkid79 (792253) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @08:57PM (#10783002) Homepage
    And there is nothing I want more than to wait 3.6 days for a disk to finish writing..
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @08:58PM (#10783009)
    ...by putting sunscreen on them?
  • by 3770 (560838) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @09:00PM (#10783028) Homepage
    These should really come in some type of protective casing. Like a floppy or something.

    I have many CD's and they were pretty resilient to scratches. They played fine even if they had a pretty hefty scratch on them.

    Then I bought DVD's and I brought them on over sea flights for entertainment. I was transporting them in one of those CD wallets and they just started getting unusable really fast. The smallest scratch and it would stop working.

    I'm thinking that these disks can get a scratch that is smaller than can be seen with the naked eye and it'll still be a real problem for the disk.

    So they should either have a protective cover like a floppy or they should have lots of redundant information physically far away from each other on the disk.
    • Or better yet.. (Score:2, Informative)

      by paintballluvr (411103)
      Better yet cover them with this [slashdot.org].

      It should fix the knicks and scratches problem.
    • Parent comment always gets modded up on slashdot with regards to optical media... here goes.

      Redundancy and error correction will make up for any casual-use scratches ("casual" meaning you generally take care of your CDs, but perhaps don't always put them back in their cases immediately or whatnot). The more space, the more error correction you have in the form of redundancy and things such as parity, not to mention faster chips allowing for interpolation to fill in any gaps that may exist.

      Also, don't for

      • I think I've tried every DVD repair kit on the market. Even those that I figured probably were a hoax. Just because I have so many damaged DVD's that it was worth the risk I thought.

        I have tried my damaged DVDs on many different players so I don't think that the laser is the problem.

        I honestly think that DVDs are much more fragile than CDs.

        Another thing which is weird with DVDs is that once it does find a bad spot it tends to lock up the system. I can't even skip forward or backwards.
    • by aziraphale (96251) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @05:22AM (#10785725)
      Actually, thinking about the physical packaging of the media, one thing I've been wondering since DVDs came along is - why the hell do all new media have to follow the exact same 12cm form factor of CDs?

      It seems crazy, to me, that we have all these 12cm discs with identically sized holes in the centre, that could contain completely different kinds of data.

      If I pick up a shiny 12cm disc, what should I play it on? my TV? My Hi Fi? Or maybe it's a data disc and only makes sense to my computer. In the future, I won't be able to tell by glancing at it whether a disc will be readable in my blue-laser DVD player, because it may be a UV disc.

      Admittedly, my DVD player can play CDs, and I only need one optical drive on my PC - these are advantages, yes. And we're probably stuck with the 13cm shiny disc format for the forseeable future now. But shouldn't somebody have realised, back when DVDs were created, that maybe there ought to be a standard way of telling them apart from CDs?

      And don't even think about getting me started on packaging design. I mean, it maybe makes sense to put movie DVDs into packages the smae height as VHS tapes, because people may have an existing investment in VHS storage in their living rooms. But in god's name, why would you package DVD-ROMs in the same sized boxes as VHS tapes? In an environment where people have storage space for CD-ROM-sized boxes, introduce a stupid, oversized box.

      What sort of box are they going to use for blue DVDs? And what can we do to stop them?
  • That is a lot o p0rn!!!
  • by rco3 (198978) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @09:02PM (#10783057) Homepage
    I see nothing about who developed the UV laser, all I see is that Pioneer is using them to write (and read) optical storage. The innovation is that they had to use a carbon mask to reduce scattering.

    Of course, I can't read Japanese, so perhaps the original article is more informative and/or accurate.

    Other companies already have UV diode lasers in production, like Nichia since 2002. However, I see nothing here indicating that Pioneer has developed the UV laser that they're using for this new disc format.

    Anyone who reads Japanese care to track back and get more details?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      There were plans for making a UV pulsed laser in a Scientific American (in the Amateur Scientist) back in the early 70's. You basically made a long box of perspex, and filled it with low-pressure nitrogen/helium mix, and put the assembly in between two big sheets of copper. Imagine a giant capacitor.

      It pulsed at 6Hz if I remember rightly (or was that (1/6 of a hertz?). Was pretty dangerous as you couldnt see the bean at all. I used an old TV tube as a detector (the phosphors lit up where it hit).

      Was a
  • UT (Score:2, Funny)

    by Striker770S (825292)
    and we quickly find out that pioneer is working on this project for epic in order to release the unreal tornament 2005 collectors edition. Just think, only 2 of these discs will fit the game on it!
  • diode? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    So I assume the breakthough is that they made it into a diode? UV lasers exist now:
    http://www.laserinnovations.com/sabrefred.ht m
  • by spiffistan (608774) <anders@pan[ ].org ['ikk' in gap]> on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @09:12PM (#10783157)
    We're missing a big point in all this: We need better ways of preserving data, not better ways of storing more data.

    --
    does our rule benefit the earth? does it help the grass to grow, the sun to shine?
  • by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @09:13PM (#10783159) Journal
    Redundant Copies on Same Meida.

    Just so I trust that my precious video of that birthday party is conserved...

    I am willing to only get 100 GB per disc, if the redundant copies in the 500GB space give me a good chance of seeing the 100GB I want...

    Super-redundant error-tolerant copy software anyone? I sure want it to tbe open-source, so that I can trust it will survive for a few years.

  • Non-plastic disks? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by daemonc (145175) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @09:13PM (#10783166)
    I'm sure that Pioneer has considered the fact that UV light gradually destroys most plastics.

    So what type of material will these UV laser disks be made of?

  • by gozu (541069) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @09:13PM (#10783169) Journal
    It's been what? 20 years now that we've been using CDs and their cousins. I wonder when we'll make the jump to a new medium and what that medium will be.

    And what happened to FDs? they were supposed to be the next big thing (tm).
    • We have gone from ~400 meg cds, to ~700 meg cds, to ~5 gig dvds, to 20+ gig blu-rays, to possibly 500+ gig discs...

      What the HELL makes you think we could possibly need a new medium? Is a 1250x increase in disk space without increasing disk size not good enough for you?

      Medum changes are a done due to a limitation in the current medium that is addressed by another. Co-ax to cat#, co-ax/cat# to fiber, 16 to 32 bit, cassette to cd. If compact disks ever reach mainstream 500 gig, and they are burnable at a fe
      • I think what will eventually push us to new media will be something more durable, more convenient (CDs are a pain), probably with the potential to be made cheaper, and hopefully with lower environmental impact.

        Hopefully, anyway. Perhaps some memory card format - they're getting big enough now to be good for general use, though they're definitely not cheap enough yet.
  • It occurs to me that 500 GB is just about enough space to store the 40,000 most popular songs of the last 60 years in 256-bit mp3 format.

    I might be willing to pay as much as $200 for such a disk, as long as most of the money went to the copyright owners (performers?) instead of evil record company scumbucketry.

    Alas, market forces have yet to work their magic to actualize this rather pleasant "convenience fantasy".

  • Or 84615 minutes of MPEG4 Video per disk at 320x480p. That's about 770 DVD's (granted that's at a crapulent quality level) Anyone know who many porn DVD's are released each month?
  • .. but seriously though, why not just use X-Rays? Why the gradual progression towards larger and larger capacities?
  • obviously the folks that made the blue laser devices had as much foresight as the razor-company engineers that felt that they had to make a three blade razor before they could make one with four blades.
    • yeah, I get it. I was trying to play on the dynamic that exists betweening marketing and engineering - some obvious technological advance is stymied because of the profit to be gained by pressuring consumers into a stepwise upgrade scheme.
      I picked the example of the razor companies, because it is easy, and potentially humorous to imagine a group of engineers drafting up a plan for a three bladed razor and one rogue engineer saying something like, "...and what if we added a fourth blade?!" A silence fil
  • Sure, everyone else can jump straight to ultraviolet, but I'm sticking with my proprietary PurpleRay format - it may not compete with ultraviolet in terms of data density, but nothing says "I'm a bad mother f*****" like a PurpleRay.
  • by Geiger581 (471105) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:19PM (#10783660)
    Most plastics lose clarity and become brittle under UV exposure. Focusing a UV beam, even if only at a miniscule power, at such a small track width seems to introduce a whole slew of new problems. I've heard that Blu-ray will be the last generation of plastic-substrate optical disks unless better UV resistant materials can be developed.
  • by RonBurk (543988) on Wednesday November 10, 2004 @10:25PM (#10783690) Homepage Journal
    We used to use a Sony Mavica to take pictures on floppy disks. That made for a stack of floppies after a week or two of vacation, but not unmanageable. Then, technology gave us a Sony camera that could record on optical disc. Woohoo! Instead of a stack of floppies, one disc (or 2 at worst) could cover an entire vacation.

    When we lost a floppy disk, we only lost 20 pictures at most. Alas, when we lost an optical disc, we lost an entire vacation's worth of pictures.

    When media data storage rates double, reliability needs to double too!

  • There have been many comments about using gamma/X-rays in order to write to discs and getting even better storage and people saying it's not possible because it would go right through any disc.

    Last year in nuclear physics lab we did an experiment where we had a gamma ray source and a detector and took various measurements of how far they could go through various compounds (aluminum, copper, and lead). Let me say that 30 cm of aluminum blocked less than 10 cm of copper which blocked less than a cm of lead

  • This [pioneer.co.jp] Japanese page has some pictures of pits from April 2004 press release. It says Pioneer has codeveloped with its group company Pioneer FA an Electron Beam Recorder (EBR). The Laser Beam Recorder (LBR) of the past used UV or deep-UV light whereas the EBR uses an electron beam. It says it will be able to deal with not only Blu-Ray disks, but also hard disks as it can deal with discrete track media and pattern domains. So what this says is first of all, a UV laser is nothing new, but on the other hand I
  • 3 weeks to burn too.
    What with K3b (.11.17) currently burning 4.7gb DVD's at about 1.2x

    I can't wait!! (Did I really say that?!)
  • Looks like Bill Gates finally realised that 640k memory isnt enough for everyone
  • My question is, do you think that a rewritable disk could be done this way? Or would the UV be too much for it?
  • Limits (Score:3, Informative)

    by Xyrus (755017) on Thursday November 11, 2004 @11:26AM (#10787780) Journal
    At 70 nm between disc pits, you're starting to reach the quantum limit (that's the UV laser). Simple dust particles too small for your eye to see could cause megabytes of data loss on reading and writing. I'm assuming they're either working out the problems (vacuum sealed discs) or already solved them. But I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the next "disc" using x-rays or gamma rays.

    For instance, at the energies X-rays, you're now talking electrons. The chance of an error increases enormously. The media would have have to be made of something akin to diamond,or another type of crystal so that the diffraction of the rays could be interpereted as data. And even then, random "tunneling" and such could cause data issues. You'd also have to keep the radiation energy low, or encase the drive in a lead sarcophagus. And forget about gamma ray discs.

    I think the next big step will be solid state (crystal matrices or the like) and not disk based. Though if they do work out the dust/scratch problem on the UV discs I'd probably get one. :)

    ~X~

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