Ever since the HAL 9000
was decommissioned by pulling out its clear plastic storage modules in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey every storage geek has been jonesing for 3D storage. Holographic, multi-layer, whatever. I want capacity and I want it now!

Mempile disk

“I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
Well, we’ll have to wait a little longer. But if they can commercialize it, the Israeli company Mempile has taken a baby step in the right direction:

Mempile’s patented non-linear two-photon technology allows for 3D recording of transparent virtual layers on the entire volume of the disc. Mempile’s recent demonstration proved that more than 100 layers could be recorded and read showing storage capabilities of slightly less than 300GB over a thickness of 0.6 mm of active material. By increasing this active material to the thickness of a DVD, 1.2 mm, Mempile will be able to demonstrate the recording and reading of at least 500GB of data. Future optimization will allow the recording of 200 layers and of up to 5GB of data per layer.

Mempile has hooked up with a French chemical company, Arkema, and a Japanese media manufacturer, Memory Tech, and they are

. . . focusing on the development of an inexpensive volumetric optical disc and a high-density disc drive able to be made available at consumer prices. With true WORM capabilities, bit-by-bit recording and addressing, and longevity greater than 50 years, Mempile’s TeraDisc technology will empower both consumers and enterprise sectors.

“I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.”
It sounds too good to be true, so it probably is.

  • This is little more than a lab demo. I’d guess they are at least 5 years away from a product.
  • The 200 GB Blu-ray disk will be getting ready for its next capacity boost by then.
  • 50 year life? Disks, maybe. Players, no.

“Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it.”
Very few of the promised optical technologies have achieved success. It was just 25 years ago that the first commercial CD rolled off the production line – The Visitors by the Swedish pop group ABBA. CDs are still selling but lots of other optical technologies either never made it in the market or their time came and went.

  • 12″ laser disks enjoyed some success until the cheaper and more convenient DVD killed it off.
  • Heavily-backed optical startup Dataplay went bankrupt a few years ago – collateral damage on the iPod’s march to global music domination. Note that iPods have yet to use optical and probably never will.
  • The latest: Universal Media Disks – UMD – for the Playstation. Instead folks are using Handbrake and ripping their DVDs for playback on iPods.

“Look Dave, I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.”
Good advice, HAL. And after I disconnect you maybe I will.

The StorageMojo take
Most ventures don’t achieve the dreams of their founders. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t worth doing. I applaud Mempile for coming up with a new technology that, despite the odds, offers something better than what Blu-ray is planning in three years.

Optical storage, in some form, has a permanent place in the world of storage. As long as people keep pushing the envelope we’ll be figuring out how to use it.

Comments welcome, as always. Can you believe that CD’s are 25 years old?