Published on Feb 12, 2016


A hologram is a recording of the optical interference pattern that forms at the intersection of two coherent optical beams. Typically, light from a single laser is split into two paths, the signal path and the reference path.The beam that propagates along the signal path carries information, whereas the reference is designed to be simple to reproduce. A common reference beam is a plane wave: a light beam that propagates without converging or diverging. The two paths are overlapped on the holographic medium and the interference pattern between the two beams is recorded.

A key property of this interferometric recording is that when it is illuminated by a readout beam, the signal beam is reproduced. In effect, some of the light is diffracted from the readout beam to "reconstruct" a weak copy of the signal beam. If the signal beam was created by reflecting light off a 3D object, then the reconstructed hologram makes the 3D object appear behind the holographic medium. When the hologram is recorded in a thin material, the readout beam can differ from the reference beam used for recording and the scene will still appear. To make the hologram, the reference and object beams are overlapped in a photosensitive medium, such as a photopolymer or inorganic crystal.

Description of Holographic Data Storage

Devices that use light to store and read data have been the backbone of data storage for nearly two decades. Compact discs revolutionized data storage in the early 1980s, allowing multi-megabytes of data to be stored on a disc that has a diameter of a mere 12 centimeters and a thickness of about 1.2 millimeters. In 1997, an improved version of the CD, called a digital versatile disc (DVD), was released, which enabled the storage of full-length movies on a single disc.

CDs and DVDs are the primary data storage methods for music, software, personal computing and video. A CD can hold 783 megabytes of data. A double-sided, double-layer DVD can hold 15.9 GB of data, which is about eight hours of movies. These conventional storage mediums meet today's storage needs, but storage technologies have to evolve to keep pace with increasing consumer demand. CDs, DVDs and magnetic storage all store bits of information on the surface of a recording medium. In order to increase storage capabilities, scientists are now working on a new optical storage method called holographic memory that will go beneath the surface and use the volume of the recording medium for storage, instead of only the surface area. Three-dimensional data storage will be able to store more information in a smaller space and offer faster data transfer times.


When the blue-green argon laser is fired, a beam splitter creates two beams. One beam, called the object or signal beam, will go straight, bounce off one mirror and travel through a spatial-light modulator (SLM). An SLM is a Liquid crystal display (LCD) that shows pages of raw binary data as clear and dark boxes. The information from the page of binary code is carried by the signal beam around to the light-sensitive lithium-niobate crystal. Some systems use a photopolymer in place of the crystal. A second beam, called the reference beam, shoots out the side of the beam splitter and takes a separate path to the crystal. When the two beams meet, the interference pattern that is created stores the data carried by the signal beam in a specific area in the crystal -- the data is stored as a hologram.


Once error-free data is recorded into a hologram, methods which read data back out of it need to be error free as well. Data in page format requires a new way to provide error control. Current error control methods concentrate on a stream of bits. Because page data is in the form of a two dimensional array, error correction needs to take into account the extra dimension of bits. When a page of data is written to the holographic media, the page is separated into smaller two dimensional arrays. These sub sections are appended with an additional row and column of bits.


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