“In the future, these new film
s could be incorporated into a tiny storage chip that records 3D color information that could later be viewed as a 3D hologram with realistic detail,” says Shencheng Fu, who led researchers from Northeast Normal University in Changchun, China in a press statement. “Because the storage medium is environmentally stable, the device could be used outside or even brought into the harsh radiation conditions of outer space.”
Not only can the films hold tremendous amounts of data, but they can also retrieve that data at the speeds of 1 gigabyte per second. Most current USB 3.0 drives, for example, max out at 100 megabytes per second.
Holographic data storage is the process of using lasers to create and read a 3D holographic recreation of data in a material. Lasers can record and read millions of bits at once, give them substantial speed advantages over magnetic storage systems typically seen today. It's not widespread yet, but companies ranging from Hitachi to Nintendo have experimented with it.
There have been potential problems with holographic data storage, however, including the fact that UV light has been shown to corrupt and erase data stored by previous experimental holographic methods. Testing showed that this film, a mere 620 nanometers thick, was able to record efficiently and with a degree of high stability around UV light. The next step is attempting to use the films outside.
It will be some time before we see products using this technology sold in stores, given how the holographic memory would also need the development of high efficiency 3D image reconstruction techniques. One step at a time.