How Holographic Memory Will Work

A Little Background

Holographic memory offers the possibility of storing 1 terabyte (TB) of data in a sugar-cube-sized crystal. A terabyte of data equals 1,000 gigabytes, 1 million megabytes or 1 trillion bytes. Data from more than 1,000 CDs could fit on a holographic memory system. Most computer hard drives only hold 10 to 40 GB of data, a small fraction of what a holographic memory system might hold.

Polaroid scientist Pieter J. van Heerden first proposed the idea of holographic (three-dimensional) storage in the early 1960s. A decade later, scientists at RCA Laboratories demonstrated the technology by recording 500 holograms in an iron-doped lithium-niobate crystal, and 550 holograms of high-resolution images in a light-sensitive polymer material. The lack of cheap parts and the advancement of magnetic and semiconductor memories placed the development of holographic data storage on hold.

Over the past decade, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and high-tech giants IBM and Lucent's Bell Labs have led the resurgence of holographic memory development.