At the Asia-Pacific Data Store Conference 2004 in Taiwan last week, a group of researchers from Imperial College London unveiled new technology that has the potential to store up to 1TB of data on a disc the size of a CD or DVD. Although the new technology, called Multiplexed Optical Data Storage (MODS), is 5 to 10 years from commercial implementation, researchers tout the advance as important for consumer applications such as video and mobile devices and for enterprise applications such as data storage and backup.

The race to add more capacity to optical storage than the current DVD format provides is on, with High-Definition DVD (HD-DVD) and Blu-ray formats battling for supremacy. Like DVDs, CDs, and Blu-ray, MODS uses lasers, but improves on them by using subtle variations and hundreds of angles while reading data from the disc. Like other disc formats, the technology will use two layers and both sides of a disc. "According to our experimental results, we can optimistically estimate that we will be able to store about 1TB per disk in total using our new method. This translates to about 250GB per layer, 10 times the amount that a Blu-ray disk can hold," said Dr. Peter Török, leader of the research at Imperial College.

The researchers believe MODS discs will cost about the same to manufacture as today's DVDs. The transition to MODS will be eased by its ability to read CDs and DVDs. The researchers see one of the more powerful uses of its technology in the mobile device market because companies will be able to manufacture small-form-factor discs that can hold significantly more data than other available options. The group hopes to secure additional funding for future development and have the first MODS-based technology on the shelves between 2010 and 2015.