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How about $5 for 1GB of Flash memory

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A data storage technique has been developed by Constellation 3D that could wipe the floor with CD and DVD technology.

The company has developed multi-layer disks, which it says could eventually hold a terabyte of data, at a fraction of the current cost.

The new disks, which will be ready for market in just over a year, will have much lower production costs, and will undercut flash memory by a huge margin.

Patrick Maloney, SVP Business Development at C3D, commented: "If you could buy 1GB of flash memory, it would cost you around $2000. We anticipate our disks will cost around $2 each to make."

He says that once the market pushes the price down, the disks will probably retail for around $5.

The prototype disk spins at 35rps enabling data transfer rates of 100MBps - significantly up on DVD. At present, the company only has analogue disks, but says that by autumn this year the digital version will be ready for demonstrations.

The problem with current optical storage is that the technology is operating close to its theoretical limits. By using a fluorescent polymer on the surface of a disk, data can be read simply by detecting the presence of a fluorescent flash.

IBM spent a small fortune - $100 million - on research into optical multi-layer storage before deciding it was not a feasible prospect. Using reflective technology, the signal quickly degrades as the number of layers increased.

The new fluorescent technology retains the signal quality much longer, since the light is totally incoherent. Several layers are integrated into the media, separated by distances as small as 15 microns. A laser focuses on one layer at a time, reading or writing to each separately.

Next summer will see the arrival of ROM versions, with recording versions following in the winter of 2001. The company also plans to release a credit card sized version, which will hold 5GB of data. ®

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