Optical data storage (ODS) is moving on to the next generation, and for its market launch, the principal manufacturers have again decided in favor of Makrolon®, the polycarbonate from Bayer MaterialScience AG. As successors to the familiar DVD formats, Blu-ray-Discs and High-Density-DVDs (HD-DVDs) operate with blue laser light and can each store up from 15 to more than 100 gigabytes, depending on the number of used information layers. This quantum leap in storage capacity resulted from the need to store an entire feature film on one disc, in the new so called High-Definition (HD) resolution.
Selected television stations in Asia and the United States are already broadcasting HD-TV programs. In Europe, the 2006 Soccer World Cup is viewed as the primary driver behind the introduction of HD-TV. In addition, several major US film studios recently have started introducing the first high-definition movies.
"The progress made in optical storage media would not have been possible if we hadn't succeeded in improving the quality of our high-tech material Makrolon®: it meets the demands of the sophisticated manufacturing process, and guarantees the properties required of the Blu-ray-Discs and HD-DVDs themselves. Now, Makrolon® has reached another milestone since the birth of the audio CD in 1982, when it became the substrate material of choice for storage media manufacturers," explains Dr. Uli Franz, who as Industry Manager at Bayer MaterialScience coordinates all global activities in the optical data storage segment. "We have continued to promote technical developments over the last few years, aiming for formats with higher storage densities based on improved Makrolon® formulations and continuous optimization of the polycarbonate manufacturing process."
Bayer MaterialScience reached its goal thanks to a global research and development strategy and close cooperation with ODS developers, producers and equipment manufacturers. A key element in this network are the Bayer MaterialScience Optical Disc Labs in Leverkusen, Pittsburgh and Shanghai, which handle collaborative projects with customers, technical service and their own research and development projects. They are equipped not only with the latest machinery for mass producing optical discs, but also have access to precision apparatus for extensive chemical and physical testing and analysis. To fulfill the increased demands imposed on the substrate material compared to the "old" formats, Bayer MaterialScience began entering into partnerships with the developers of the new discs at a very early stage. "The current state of the art is clearly ideal for the continued use of polycarbonate, and thus also of Makrolon®," says Burkhard Reitze, head of ODS Business Development.
Apart from technical requirements, optical disc manufacturers attach great importance to the use of just one material for the production of all formats, in order to simplify logistics and keep investment costs to a minimum. "Manufacturers tend to choose a material with which they have had good experience in the past in terms of economic efficiency. Moreover, they want to manufacture the new formats at their existing production facilities. Therefore, they gain an advantage with Makrolon® for optical data storage applications, because it's available worldwide in all the major economic regions," Mr. Reitze explains.