Researchers have developed a new camera which can be used to print extremely small details onto a special film. The camera could be used to significantly improve the storage capacity of optical discs.
Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have created a new ‘camera’ that can record images onto film on a scale much smaller than the wavelength of visible light (~400nm).
The researchers discovered than an array of novel gold, pillar-bowtie nanoantennas (pBNAs) can be used much like photographic film, to record a pattern of light, but unlike ordinary film, the material is capable of recording very small details. An ordinary optical microscope can be used as a camera lens together with the material to take photos.
“Unlike conventional photographic film, the effect (writing and curing) is seen in real time,” explains lead researcher Kimani Toussaint, “Because simple diode lasers and low-input power densities are sufficient to record […] information in the pBNAs, this increases the potential for optical data storage applications using off-the-shelf, low-cost, read-write laser systems.”
The letter ‘I’ printed with the pBNAs camera. Each bar is approximately 6 micrometers thick
In other words, Toussaint believes the new camera can, with very low cost, be used to record data onto optical media, such as DVDs and BluRay discs, increasing their capacity many times over. The research team believes with the current camera design, capable of printing 425nm structures, a standard size disc could hold roughly 28.6GB of data. By playing around with array spacing in the camera, as well as by manufacturing a smaller antenna size for the camera, that capacity could be bumped to 75GB.
Abdul Bhuiya, a co-author and member of the research team explains how the camera works. By heating an antenna with laser light, it creates a plasma which instantly creates a pattern on the pBNAs. The research team also envisions using the technology for other applications like lab-on-chip nanotweezers or sensing equipment.