Holographic memory is developing technology that has promised to revolutionalise the storage systems. It can store data upto 1 Tb in a sugar cube sized crystal. Data from more than 1000 CDs can fit into a holographic memory System. Most of the computer hard drives available today can hold only 10 to 40 GB of data, a small fraction of what holographic memory system can hold. Conventional memories use only the surface to store the data. But holographic data storage systems use the volume to store data. It has more advantages than conventional storage systems. It is based on the principle of holography.
Scientist Pieter J. van Heerden first proposed the idea of holographic (three-dimensional) storage in the early 1960s. A decade later, scientists at RCA Laboratories demonstrated the technology by recording 500 holograms in an iron-doped lithium-niobate crystal and 550 holograms of high-resolution images in a light-sensitive polymer material. The lack of cheap parts and the advancement of magnetic and semiconductor memories placed the development of holographic data storage on hold.
A hologram is a block or sheet of photosensitive material which records the interference of two light sources. To create a hologram, laser light is first split into two beams, a source beam and a reference beam. The source beam is then manipulated and sent into the photosensitive material. Once inside this material, it intersects the reference beam and the resulting interference of laser light is recorded on the photosensitive material, resulting in a hologram. Once a hologram is recorded, it can be viewed with only the reference beam. The reference beam is projected into the hologram at the exact angle it was projected during recording. When this light hits the recorded diffraction pattern, the source beam is regenerated out of the refracted light. An exact copy of the source beam is sent out of the hologram and can be read by optical sensors. For example, a hologram that can be obtained from a toy store illustrates this idea. Precise laser equipment is used at the factory to create the hologram. A recording material which can recreate recorded images out of natural light is used so the consumer does not need high-tech equipment to view the information stored in the hologram. Natural light becomes the reference beam and human eyes become the optical sensors.