New DVD-Like Disc Holds More Movies Than You Can See In A Lifetime

February 28, 2024

By Jess Thomson

Science Reporter, Newsweek

This year's Christmas presents could be sorted: scientists have invented a DVD-sized disc that can store millions of hours of video, enough for all your favorite movies and TV shows—and much more besides.

Current DVDs only have a storage capacity of about 4.5 GB, which can contain about 2 hours of video footage.

Now, however, researchers from China have developed a new type of disc that can hold up to a petabyte of data, the equivalent of more than 220,000 regular DVD discs, according to a new paper in the journal Nature.

The development could be great news for lovers of physical media—as just one of these "super-DVD"s could contain up to a million movies.

The new disc may be dangerous, however, as it could make it much too easy to binge-watch every episode of Gossip Girl for the fifth time.


A stock image of a DVD. Scientists have invented a new disc that can hold millions of movies.ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS

DVDs have data encoded onto them in the form of microscopic pits and "lands" on the disc's surface, which represent binary data (0s and 1s). To read the data, a DVD player or DVD drive in a computer uses a laser diode focussed onto the surface of the disc.

When the laser hits a pit on the surface of the DVD, it is not reflected as strongly as when it hits a land. This difference in reflectivity is detected by a sensor in the DVD player's pickup unit. The sensor converts these variations in reflectivity into a digital signal, which represents the binary data encoded on the DVD.

Some DVDs are single-layer, and can store about 4.5 GB, while others have two layers, and can store around around 8.5 GB. These discs have a semi-transparent layer in addition to the reflective layer. The first layer (closer to the surface) is made of a reflective material, while the second layer (closer to the center of the disc) is made of a semi-reflective material. This allows the laser to pass through the first layer and read the second layer.

The new disc that can store a petabyte of data has achieved this feat by containing 100 layers rather than one or two.

"We increase the capacity of [optical data storage] to the petabit level by extending the planar recording architecture to three dimensions with hundreds of layers, meanwhile breaking the optical diffraction limit barrier of the recorded spots," the authors wrote in the paper.

This was achieved using a special coating that allowed the etching of data at a nanoparticle scale.

There are some hurdles to overcome before the new super-DVD can be widely used, as the writing of the disc is currently extremely slow and uses a lot of energy. However, the researchers are optimistic that these problems can be solved, and that this disc may be the future of data storage.

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