Friday, January 26, 2001
Remember when IT departments used to store computer data on spools
of spinning magnetic tape? That technology soon advanced to spinning magnetic
floppy disks, and then to today's CDs and DVDs.
Now tape is back. A team of German and American researchers in
Berlin has found a way to store up to 10 Gbytes of data on a roll of ordinary
The technique, called t-rom, uses a low-power laser (less than 1
mW) to change the refractive index of very small areas on the tape. So data can
be stored onto successive layers of tape without unwinding the roll. And it
retrieves data faster than a CD, since the laser spins around the tape at much
higher speeds than standard CDs can rotate. The only drawback so far is that the
method is write-once, compared to computer hard drives which can store new
information after erasing the old.
Because the data is stored at different depths, it could be read
simultaneously, allowing researchers to store holographic images on the tape
rolls. Another application could be a single-layer, data-storage sticker, which
would hold 250 times more information than a barcode of the same size.
The discovery was made at a private German company called European
Media Laboratory GmbH (EML, http://www.eml.org/english/), using
generic adhesive tape of the brand name "tesa Multi-Film, kristallklar," made by
Beiersdorf AG (http://www.beiersdorf.de/).
EML announced this week it would begin working with Stanford
University to bring the project--called OptiMem--to maturity. For further
information, see http://www.eml.org/English/research/optimem/optimem.html.