2000: Prototype blue laser disc stores HD video

Blue diode invention earns Japanese physicists Nobel Prize in Physics

Improvements in semiconductor laser diodes drove the next two leaps in optical disc storage capacity. Early CD drive lasers emitted in the infrared spectrum at a wavelength of 780 nanometers. The smaller spot size attainable in the red region (650 nm) raised the capacity of a single layer, single side DVD fivefold to 4.7 GB. Availability of a 405 nm blue laser that can read a 150 nm length spot enabled storage of over 25 GB of high definition video on a single layer Blu-ray disc.

In the early 1990s two major industry camps engaged in competing projects to establish a high density CD format disc standard for distribution of video files. Philips and Sony supported the Multimedia Compact Disc (MMCD); Toshiba, Time Warner and others backed a Super Density (SD) disc. Researcher Alan E. Bell convened a group of computer industry representatives who recruited IBM president Lou Gerstner to mediate a compromise. The resulting 1995 standard combined physical aspects of SD with a data encoding technique from Kees A. S. Immink of Philips. Toshiba introduced the SD-3000 DVD player in Japan in 1996 and within six years close to 1,000 models were available from numerous vendors. DVD-R and later formats are specified by the DVD Forum, an international organization of hardware, software, media and content companies.

Philips and Sony continued collaboration on a next generation DVD and in 2000 Sony unveiled a prototype Blu-ray disc with 5X the capacity of its predecessor. Both DVD and Blu-ray were first developed to meet specific capacity goals of the entertainment industry, i.e., a full movie in standard definition or high definition, respectively. Critical to the Blu-ray design was the development of blue (actually closer to violet) lasers that emerged in the early 1990s from 2014 Nobel Prize winning Japanese physicists Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano, and Shuji Nakamura. .

  • Akasaki, I. and H. Amano. “Breakthroughs in Improving Crystal Quality of GaN and Invention of the p-n Junction Blue-Light-Emitting Diode” *Jpn. J. Appl. Phys.P (Vol. 45, 2006) pp. 9001-9010
  • Nakamura, S. et al. “InGaN-Based Multi-Quantum-Well-Structure Laser Diodes” Jpn. J. Appl. Phys. (35, L74, 1996)

Rev: 9.2.15