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Super-slim laser beams promise to boost optical disc capacity

Evan Blass
06.29.06
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Researchers at Japan's Kyoto University have recently announced a breakthrough method for shaping laser beams that could result in optical disc capacities up to ten times higher than what's current available from state-of-the-art HD DVD and Blu-ray discs. Using several layers of so-called photonic crystals incorporated into a small semiconductor chip, the researchers were able to manipulate a light beam's constituent photons in such a way that the resulting laser output could be shaped into a number of exotic beam patterns -- such as hollow beams, concentric hollow beams, and most importantly for optical disc capacity, solid beams with diameters much smaller than had been previously achievable. The best part about this technology is that the narrow beams can be formed without changing the wavelength of the laser, meaning that the technique could theoretically be applied to existing blue lasers, enabling next-gen optical discs to hold hundreds of gigabytes worth of data. Or, to put this in layman's terms, the $1,000 BD-P1000 you're planning on buying will now be, like, totally obsolete before you even tear open the box.

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