Chinese researchers develop prototype that could support 16K Blu-ray discs

Mike Wheatley

Researchers have created a prototype media disk that’s reportedly able to store 200,000 gigabytes of data, paving the way for a new generation of 8K and potentially even 16K Blu-ray discs. What’s more, they can be manufactured at existing DVD factories, meaning there’s an easy path to commercialising the technology.


According to the Chinese research team based at the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology that designed the prototype, the new optical disc has a capacity of up to 1.6 petabits, which equates to 1.6 million gigabits, 200,000 gigabytes or 200 terabytes.

That compares wonderfully to today’s standard Blu-ray discs, which have a maximum capacity of 100 gigabytes. It amounts to a stunning 2,000-times increase in storage capacity, the researchers said.

The researchers published a paper outlining their prototype in a paper in the journal Nature earlier this month, saying they have created a “3D nanoscale”-based media disc that is made up of 100 layers, each of which is used to store data. In contrast, most Blu-ray discs have just three layers. The Chinese team implemented a novel light-sensitive material that’s called AIE-DDPR, saying that two lasers are required to reach the discs, including a 480 nanometre blue and a 592nm orange.

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of their research is that the team says the discs can be manufactured using the same machinery that’s commonly used in the production of standard DVDs, and it will take just six minutes to create a new, blank disc.

The researchers didn’t say so directly, but their breakthrough theoretically paves the way for the creation of 8K and 16K Blu-ray discs that would potentially consign today’s 4K Blu-rays to the scrapheap.

However, it remains to be seen whether the innovation will be taken that far, for the very concept of Blu-ray discs is already heading towards the scrapheap, if the latest viewing trends continue heading in the same direction.

It’s not the technology that’s preventing it, but rather the rise of video streaming. Physical media has found itself relegated to the back seat in favor of video streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV+ and so on, and unless that trend is reversed, it’s hard to see a market that would be receptive to the new and improved media format.

That said, the major streaming service providers have so far proven reluctant to support 8K video streams, arguing that there simply aren’t enough 8K TV owners out there to justify such a move. Perhaps, just perhaps, a company like Samsung Electronics, which has been at the forefront of 8K TV development, might be interested in the prototype as a way of increasing the available content for its most advanced TVs, in the hopes of boosting their popularity.

The Chinese researchers say a more likely application for their 3D nanoscale discs will be as a high-capacity storage medium for use in data centers

"This technology makes it possible to achieve exabit-level storage by stacking nanoscale disks into arrays, which is essential in big data centres with limited space," the researchers wrote.