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Hitachi's experimental model of the quad-layer Blu-ray Disc  (Source: PC Watch)
100GB on a single Blu-ray Disc that will work with today's machines, promises Hitachi

Throughout the life of the format, DVD has been primarily limited to at most two layers, keeping the format at a maximum storage space of under 9GB. The new high-definition formats, however, appear to have taken a page from hard disk drives when it comes at adding additional storage.

Just as how adding additional platters inside a hard disk drive provides more storage, optical media makers are finding ways to stack layers of readable surface inside a polymer disc to increase capacity. Hitachi revealed this week at CEATEC JAPAN 2007 that it has successfully developed a quad-layer Blu-ray Disc that is capable of storing 100GB of data.

The concept multi-layer discs is practiced by many other media labs, but Hitachi claims that its quad-layer technology would be compatible with existing Blu-ray Disc drives after a firmware update. Prior developments of greater than dual layer discs have required special hardware to read the new media.

Hitachi is now working on improving the signal quality of its quad-layer technology so that it will be ready for market. The company also said that it is working on an eight-layer variant of the technology, which would yield a Blu-ray Disc capable of holding 200GB.

Although no new hardware may be required to read the additional layers of Hitachi’s Blu-ray Disc, it is still unclear what costs, if any, would be added onto the manufacturing side of the equation. Should expensive equipment be required to manufacture the discs, movie studios may opt to release their titles across two Blu-ray Discs rather than cram movie and special feature data onto a single disc.

While the Blu-ray camp has its hopes in Hitachi’s multi-layer disc technology, the HD DVD group recently approved a triple-layer disc that is capable of holding 51GB. In order to reach a dual-layer Blu-ray Disc-besting capacity, an extra 2GB per layer was squeezed in, for a total of 51GB. Toshiba states that continued improvement in disc mastering technology has achieved further minimization in the recording pit, allowing for the boost in capacity to 17GB in single layer and a full 51GB on a single-sided triple-layer disc.

Interestingly enough, blue-violet laser technology has not stopped endeavors in increasing the capacity of red laser-based media. UK-based New Medium Enterprises revealed in March that it developed a quad-layer DVD, called the Versatile Multilayer Disc (VMD), which is capable of storing 20GB. Even with four layers, the VMD can’t best the storage offered by today’s HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc media.

Adding just one or two layers may just be the tip of the iceberg in optical media technology. Media specialist company Ritek told DailyTech at CES 2007 that not only has it been able to produce three-layer and four-layer HD optical discs, but to have successfully designed HD media with a full 10 layers. Ritek said that its multi-layer process can be applied to both HD DVD and Blu-ray formats, making the latest developments in 20GB DVD, 51GB HD DVD and 100GB Blu-ray Discs look like just the beginning.





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