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New optical disc has room for 1,000 copies of Baldur’s Gate 3

The DVD and Blu-ray era isn't over yet, as scientists demonstrate the potential for a laser-based disc with 125TB of storage space.

Optical discs, such as DVDs and Blu-rays, may have completely fallen out of favor in the PC games business over the last few years, but scientists have possibly thrown a lifeline to the rainbow-reflecting disc of yore. A peer-reviewed paper shows the potential for a new optical disc that contains a massive petabit of data, which translates to 125TB. That’s enough room to contain 1,000 copies of Baldur’s gate 3.

Thanks to fast broadband connections, plus the speeds and capacities now available on the best gaming SSD models, we thought we’d seen the last of the humble optical disc for data storage, but the potential for so much storage space is a game changer. As a point of comparison, a triple-layer Ultra HD Blu-ray disc (as used on the PlayStation 5) contains 100GB, so we’re talking about 1,250x the storage space.

Remarkably, the disc itself (a blank one is pictured below) is also the same size as the standard 5-inch optical disc that’s been a regular sight since CDs were first introduced in the 1980s. The difference, as with many new tech developments, is how the data is stacked. We’re not talking about three or four layers here, but hundreds of them, and they’re only spaced a single micrometer apart.

125TB blank optical disc

The paper has just been published and peer-reviewed in Nature, and it details an “optical recording medium based on a photoresist film doped with aggregation-induced emission dye, which can be optically stimulated by femtosecond laser beams.”

If you find that baffling, then you’re not alone, but the gist is that you can write bits at an ultra-high resolution on this film and, thanks to the way the light reacts to the film and the dye, they can still be read through multiple layers. The resolution is also assisted by a secondary deactivating beam, which the paper says results “in a recording spot with a super-resolution scale.”

The question for those of us who fondly remember big boxed games on physical media (including me), of course, is could we be looking at a return for the glory days of boxed games on physical media? Sadly, the answer is not any time soon, at least not with this disc.

The technology is still in its infancy right now, and the paper makes it very clear that its current target market could be datacenters, where these new discs could make “it possible to achieve exabit-level storage by stacking nanoscale disks into arrays.”

In a theoretical future, though, when game installs go into the terabytes and 125TB optical discs are being mass-produced, who knows?

In the meantime, any fans of the days of boxed PC games can follow our guide on how to build a retro gaming PC, where we show you how to build a Pentium MMX system with a CD-ROM and floppy drive. Plus you can also check out our full guide on how to build a gaming PC if you’re happy to leave optical media in the history books.