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Tale of the tape

DN Staff

July 6, 2001

1 Min Read
Tale of the tape

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 adhesive tape.

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.

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