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How many movies would you physically want to own if the events of Leave the World Behind were ever to come true? If your answer is around 14,000 or fewer, you may soon only need one optical disc to store them.

Scientists at the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology have developed a new “3D nanoscale optical disc” that’s the same size and shape as a DVD or Blu-ray disc, yet it can hold an astonishing 1.6 petabits of data, according to a report by Charles Q. Choi in IEEE Spectrum. How much data is that in terms most folks can understand? It’s about 200,000 GB or roughly the amount of space that 14,285 2-hour long, 4K movies would require, assuming each movie was 14 GB in size.

The team’s findings have been published in the journal Nature.

The secret to the new disc’s capacity is its 3D storage system. Instead of writing data on a single layer, it uses 100 layers. The individual “spots” of data are also far smaller than on conventional Blu-rays or DVDs. “The data is recorded using spots as small as 54 nanometers wide, roughly a tenth of the size of the wavelengths of visible light used to read and write the data,” says Choi.

This new recording technique is made possible through the use of dual data-writing lasers and a newly developed light-sensitive material called AIE-DDPR.

What’s almost more remarkable is that the scientists say a single new blank disc can be manufactured using conventional DVD mass production techniques within six minutes.

Given the rapidly declining interest in disc-based movies, it’s unlikely this new technology will find its way into our homes despite its obvious potential as a physical format for 8K movies. The team thinks the real opportunity is with data centers. By using the nanoscale optical discs, a data center could hold an exabit of information inside of a single room — an amount of data that would currently require a space the size of a stadium.

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