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The Five Dimensions of Storage

Scientists in Australia have developed a new material that is sensitive to different wavelengths and polarizations of laser light and can store data in five dimensions. Conventional DVDs and CDs store data in two dimensions and holographic disks use three. The so-called 5-D disks have the potential of storing up to 10 TB on a single disk.

According to a report in MIT's Technology Review, Min Gu, director of the Centre for Micro-Photonics at the Swinburne University of Technology in Victoria, Australia, and a team of researchers have developed a material using layers of gold nanorods suspended in clear plastic spun flat on a glass substrate.

"Multiple data patterns can be written and read within the same area in the material without interfering with each other. Using three wavelengths and two polarizations of light, the Australian researchers have written six different patterns within the same area. They've further increased the storage density to 1.1 terabytes per cubic centimeter by writing data to stacks of as many as 10 nanorod layers," Technology Review reported. Gu and his team described the breakthrough in a paper published in the journal Nature.

While this type of storage may never make its way into enterprise storage systems, this development and other advancements in storage technology shows that researchers, scientists and engineers are continuing to raise the bar on what is possible in terms of storage density. Developments in storage technologies like flash and optical and even high-density magnetic storage continue to advance the state of the art and what is possible. A Colorado company called InPhase Technologies recently talked about a prototype that can store 713 gigabytes in just one square inch.

Moving these development from the labs to commercial products will take time -- and may prove to be impossible in many cases. Issues involving durability and reliability, speed and other performance characteristics, cost and materials, all could prevent some or many of these new approaches from ever make their way into the marketplace.

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