Materials and systems for optical data storage and processing: concerted European research action (COST)

March 19, 2002

Brussels, 18 March 2002

European Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research - COST Secretariat. Memorandum of Understanding for the implementation of a European Concerted Research Action designated as COST Action P8 "Materials and Systems for Optical Data Storage and Processing." Brussels, 15 March 2002 (document COST 2/02). Full text

Delegations will find attached hereto the text of the abovementioned Memorandum, signed in Brussels on 17 January 2002 by Denmark, Ireland, Spain and the United Kingdom, on 24 January 2002 by Belgium, on 6 March 2002 by Hungary and on 12 March 2002 by Italy.

The Signatories to this Memorandum of Understanding, declaring their common intention to participate in the concerted Action referred to above and described in the Technical Annex to the Memorandum, have reached the following understanding:

1. The Action will be carried out in accordance with the provisions of document COST 400/01 "Rules and Procedures for Implementing COST Actions", the contents of which the Signatories are fully aware of.

2. The main objective of the Action is to increase knowledge required for a technological implementation of advanced approaches to optical information storage and processing improving the capacity and performance of currently available optical data storage systems.

3. The economic dimension of the activities carried out under the Action has been estimated, on the basis of information available during the planning of the Action, at Euro 10 Million in 2001 prices.

4. The Memorandum of Understanding will take effect by being signed by at least [five] Signatories.

5. The Memorandum of Understanding will remain in force for a period of 4 years, unless the duration of the Action is modified according to the provisions of Chapter 6 of the document referred to in Point 1 above.

A. Background

The storage of analogue and digital data is a fundamental basis of human culture and civilisation.

Handwriting, printing and photography are among the most important inventions of mankind. More generally, information technology has become - and will remain - a basic need of our society.

Recent decades were marked by the rapid development of electronic and photonic information handling technologies including new powerful optical storage technologies, such as the compact disk and the laser printer.

Optical data storage is of growing scientific and economic interest for information technologies and seems set to become one of the most intensively investigated fields of modern optics. Storage requirements of our civilisation are exploding encouraged by immense technological advances. In particular, storage systems with high capacity and fast data access are essential for high-resolution image processing and future multimedia applications. Fuelled by multimedia requirement for text, images, video and audio, storage requirements are growing at an exponential rate and are estimated to exceed 1020 bits (12 exabytes) in the year 2000. With an increasing amount of information being generated or captured electronically, a large fraction, perhaps as much as 40%, will be stored digitally. To meet this need, the hierarchy of on-line, near-line and off-line storage systems will be composed of many diverse technologies: magnetic disk drives, magnetic tape drives and tape libraries, optical disk drives and optical libraries. The mix of these sub-systems will be very application-specific so as to optimise the performance and cost of the overall system.

During the last ten years optical disk drives and media have emerged as a significant and growing segment of the information storage industry. With the Compact Disk, optical data storage has become very attractive for both the consumer and the storage market. Portability has created a whole new industry in CD Audio. CD-ROMs have enhanced the efficiency of distribution and use of software, games and video. Significant advances in the enabling technologies constituting the Compact Disk make it possible to increase capacity in the recently adopted DVD format with the ability to store an entire movie in high-quality digital video on a single side of a disk. The acceleration of processor speeds and the evolution of new multimedia and Internet applications are creating an almost insatiable demand for high performance data storage solutions. The new DVD standard satisfies the immediate storage demand, but the way to the next generation of optical storage media is still not clearly defined. New concepts for storage systems have to be evaluated.

CD technology was developed jointly by Philips of the Netherlands and Sony of Japan in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Today most of the research and advanced development work in DVD (the successor to CD) and future generations of read-only media takes place in Japan. In the USA, research efforts on powerful storage technologies are coordinated by the NSIC (National Storage Industry Consortium) with the aim of bringing together research groups whose projects cover the entire spectrum of materials, devices and computer systems. Especially in holographic storage, several projects have been started in early 1990s including R&D activities on systems and materials as well as supporting optoelectronic components. Holography is a revolutionary storage technology that can provide impressive advances in both capacity and speed, which are not possible with magnetic or conventional optical technologies. In 1995 the Holographic Data Storage Systems consortium was founded as a university-industry-government venture in which several universities join together with the leading optoelectronics companies. High-performance holographic data storage media and systems have the potential to dramatically speed the evolution of the fast-moving entertainment, consumer products and information technology industries.

The need for an extended investigation of materials and systems for optical data storage is due to the limitations of the materials and systems available at present. Several issues have to be addressed to overcome the gap between laboratory systems and industrial devices: light sensitivity, spatial resolution, storage capacity, recording and retrieval time.

In Europe, the academic research position in the field of optical information storage and processing is rather weak although the global optical communications industry is experiencing huge growth and great technological changes. To keep pace with huge technology advances in the USA and Japan, it is necessary to combine the existing efforts of European research institutions. The COST Action provides a unique platform bringing together many complementary projects, which focus on different specific research topics. Within the COST framework, a scientific exchange becomes possible that can benefit particular research efforts. Novel opportunities and strategies for a successful European cooperation in the field of optical data storage have to be evaluated.

This Action is based on a previous work from 1998 to 2001 within the COST Action P2 "Applications of non-linear optical phenomena". The project "Materials and systems for optical data storage" took place successfully within this action and generated strong interest leading to this Action. The COST program offers the best organisation basis for this Action to develop networks because it is organised bottom-up with many participating scientists from different countries...

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