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Research team develops new high-capacity DVD at UCF

Published: Sunday, January 7, 2007

Updated: Sunday, February 15, 2009 17:02

DVDs have never been able to hold more than a movie or two at a time.

But soon consumers may be able to store an entire library of films, video games and computer files on just one disk.

That kind of storage may be available in a few years thanks to a UCF chemistry professor and a team of researchers who made a technological breakthrough that could change the way we store digital media.

Chemistry professor Kevin Belfield led the research team, with members ranging from undergraduate students to professors with doctorate degrees, when they made a discovery leading to the invention of a new, high-capacity DVD.

"I envision our technology may be harnessed for storage of large volumes of data, such as is needed by large corporations, governments and the military," Belfield said in an e-mail interview.

The DVD's method of storage, known as two-photon 3-D optical storage data, is capable of storing up to one terabyte of information - or about 500 Hollywood blockbusters - on just a single DVD.

In addition to database applications, Belfield envisions the high-capacity DVD will help the soldiers in Iraq and elsewhere overseas.

"A lot of our early work was sponsored by the army," Belfield said. "We still have a lot to do in the 3-D storage area."

Currently, soldiers rely on their memory of area roads in order to detect changes in their surroundings from day to day, Belfield said.

He hopes that, after further research, video and satellite imagery will be able to be recorded on these mega DVDs on a daily basis for soldiers in the field.

Then soldiers wouldn't have to rely on their memories to detect if roadside bombs have been planted or other suspicious activity has taken place.

As a chemistry professor, Belfield said it may not be obvious to some people how he would be involved in this research.

"My research is in the area of optical and photonic materials with a strong interest in photochemistry," Belfield said.

"The background I have ... provides me with the perspective of designing new materials for applications involving light (photonics)."

Belfield is also a part of the College of Optics and Photonics. His research team was granted $270,000 in September from the National Science Foundation to continue their research.

Michelle Josey, an undergraduate working in the lab since May 2005, said she finds her work with the project to be very rewarding.

"Some days, you feel like you're never going to get anywhere," Josey said in an e-mail. "It's successes like these which give researchers the hope and drive they need to continue, and I can't imagine how rewarding it must be to see the impact your research has made on the world."

While initial applications for the DVD will likely be for the military, large corporations and the medical field, Belfield is also excited about the possibility of consumer applications - especially in the gaming industry.

"I think that by being able to have a lot more information, a lot more detail, that would certainly enhance the [gaming] experience … especially as we move more towards the virtual reality arena," Belfield said.

"It's one of those rare opportunities where our work in the laboratory has that potential," he said.

"We're probably a few years away from being picked up commercially."

Information technology major Brad Dial sees how the DVD could be potentially beneficial for gamers, like himself, by allowing space for better graphics and more storage.

But from the programming side, he said he sees a small problem.

"Games already take years to make, and that is only when using a disc of around nine gigabytes," Dial wrote in an e-mail.

"I can't imagine how long it would take to create a game that takes advantage of all this extra space."

All DVD research was carried out at UCF.

Belfield has been working in this field for more than 10 years, but his research began at UCF just 6 years ago.

The high capacity DVD is pending two U.S. patents, and was highlighted in the Nov. 18 issue of Nature Photonics.

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