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From the nation that brought us literally paper-thin walls and Origami, the ancient art of paper folding, comes the world's first optical disc made largely out of paper. Researchers from Sony and the Toppan Printing Co. have created a Blu-ray disc based on the material, the pair announced yesterday.

The two companies mixed plastic and paper to create a cheap 1.1mm opaque disc substrate. On top of that sits the recording layer then a 0.1mm-thick transparent protective cover. Overall, some 51 per cent of the disc is paper.

The motivation to develop a paper-based disc was fourfold: first, to make discs cheaper to produce, but also to allow higher quality printing on the label side. Today, most DVDs and CDs are printed using single- or dual-colour screen printing. Photography can be applied to discs, but a white layer has to be laid down first, and the results are rarely a match for standard magazine printing, say.

A paper surface makes that kind of printing possible. And by using a thicker-than-standard substrate, the paper disc is more rigid and warp-free, the companies claimed.

Hideaki Kawai, head of Toppan's corporate R&D division, highlighted a fourth benefit: data security. "Since a paper disc can be cut by scissors easily, it's simple to preserve data security when disposing of the disc," he said.

It might even be edible.

The prototype disc - the result of a year-long research project - is capable of holding 25GB of data. Details of the production process will be announced next week at the Optical Data Storage 2004 conference held in Monterey, California.

Volume production is a long way off, but Sony and Toppan said they were committed the develop the disc for commercial implementation. ®

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