Dynamics of pattern writing and erasure in photorefractive lithium niobate for data storage applications

Sando, Daniel M. (2010) Dynamics of pattern writing and erasure in photorefractive lithium niobate for data storage applications. PhD by Publication, Queensland University of Technology.


The present rate of technological advance continues to place significant demands on data storage devices. The sheer amount of digital data being generated each year along with consumer expectations, fuels these demands. At present, most digital data is stored magnetically, in the form of hard disk drives or on magnetic tape. The increase in areal density (AD) of magnetic hard disk drives over the past 50 years has been of the order of 100 million times, and current devices are storing data at ADs of the order of hundreds of gigabits per square inch. However, it has been known for some time that the progress in this form of data storage is approaching fundamental limits. The main limitation relates to the lower size limit that an individual bit can have for stable storage. Various techniques for overcoming these fundamental limits are currently the focus of considerable research effort. Most attempt to improve current data storage methods, or modify these slightly for higher density storage. Alternatively, three dimensional optical data storage is a promising field for the information storage needs of the future, offering very high density, high speed memory. There are two ways in which data may be recorded in a three dimensional optical medium; either bit-by-bit (similar in principle to an optical disc medium such as CD or DVD) or by using pages of bit data. Bit-by-bit techniques for three dimensional storage offer high density but are inherently slow due to the serial nature of data access. Page-based techniques, where a two-dimensional page of data bits is written in one write operation, can offer significantly higher data rates, due to their parallel nature. Holographic Data Storage (HDS) is one such page-oriented optical memory technique. This field of research has been active for several decades, but with few commercial products presently available. Another page-oriented optical memory technique involves recording pages of data as phase masks in a photorefractive medium. A photorefractive material is one by which the refractive index can be modified by light of the appropriate wavelength and intensity, and this property can be used to store information in these materials. In phase mask storage, two dimensional pages of data are recorded into a photorefractive crystal, as refractive index changes in the medium. A low-intensity readout beam propagating through the medium will have its intensity profile modified by these refractive index changes and a CCD camera can be used to monitor the readout beam, and thus read the stored data. The main aim of this research was to investigate data storage using phase masks in the photorefractive crystal, lithium niobate (LiNbO3). Firstly the experimental methods for storing the two dimensional pages of data (a set of vertical stripes of varying lengths) in the medium are presented. The laser beam used for writing, whose intensity profile is modified by an amplitudemask which contains a pattern of the information to be stored, illuminates the lithium niobate crystal and the photorefractive effect causes the patterns to be stored as refractive index changes in the medium. These patterns are read out non-destructively using a low intensity probe beam and a CCD camera. A common complication of information storage in photorefractive crystals is the issue of destructive readout. This is a problem particularly for holographic data storage, where the readout beam should be at the same wavelength as the beam used for writing. Since the charge carriers in the medium are still sensitive to the read light field, the readout beam erases the stored information. A method to avoid this is by using thermal fixing. Here the photorefractive medium is heated to temperatures above 150�C; this process forms an ionic grating in the medium. This ionic grating is insensitive to the readout beam and therefore the information is not erased during readout. A non-contact method for determining temperature change in a lithium niobate crystal is presented in this thesis. The temperature-dependent birefringent properties of the medium cause intensity oscillations to be observed for a beam propagating through the medium during a change in temperature. It is shown that each oscillation corresponds to a particular temperature change, and by counting the number of oscillations observed, the temperature change of the medium can be deduced. The presented technique for measuring temperature change could easily be applied to a situation where thermal fixing of data in a photorefractive medium is required. Furthermore, by using an expanded beam and monitoring the intensity oscillations over a wide region, it is shown that the temperature in various locations of the crystal can be monitored simultaneously. This technique could be used to deduce temperature gradients in the medium. It is shown that the three dimensional nature of the recording medium causes interesting degradation effects to occur when the patterns are written for a longer-than-optimal time. This degradation results in the splitting of the vertical stripes in the data pattern, and for long writing exposure times this process can result in the complete deterioration of the information in the medium. It is shown in that simply by using incoherent illumination, the original pattern can be recovered from the degraded state. The reason for the recovery is that the refractive index changes causing the degradation are of a smaller magnitude since they are induced by the write field components scattered from the written structures. During incoherent erasure, the lower magnitude refractive index changes are neutralised first, allowing the original pattern to be recovered. The degradation process is shown to be reversed during the recovery process, and a simple relationship is found relating the time at which particular features appear during degradation and recovery. A further outcome of this work is that the minimum stripe width of 30 ìm is required for accurate storage and recovery of the information in the medium, any size smaller than this results in incomplete recovery. The degradation and recovery process could be applied to an application in image scrambling or cryptography for optical information storage. A two dimensional numerical model based on the finite-difference beam propagation method (FD-BPM) is presented and used to gain insight into the pattern storage process. The model shows that the degradation of the patterns is due to the complicated path taken by the write beam as it propagates through the crystal, and in particular the scattering of this beam from the induced refractive index structures in the medium. The model indicates that the highest quality pattern storage would be achieved with a thin 0.5 mm medium; however this type of medium would also remove the degradation property of the patterns and the subsequent recovery process. To overcome the simplistic treatment of the refractive index change in the FD-BPM model, a fully three dimensional photorefractive model developed by Devaux is presented. This model shows significant insight into the pattern storage, particularly for the degradation and recovery process, and confirms the theory that the recovery of the degraded patterns is possible since the refractive index changes responsible for the degradation are of a smaller magnitude. Finally, detailed analysis of the pattern formation and degradation dynamics for periodic patterns of various periodicities is presented. It is shown that stripe widths in the write beam of greater than 150 ìm result in the formation of different types of refractive index changes, compared with the stripes of smaller widths. As a result, it is shown that the pattern storage method discussed in this thesis has an upper feature size limit of 150 ìm, for accurate and reliable pattern storage.

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ID Code: 39241
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD by Publication)
Supervisor: Jaatinen, Esa & Michael, Gregory
Keywords: optical data storage, lithium niobate, nonlinear optics, photorefractive effect, beam propagation method, degradation reversal, temperature sensing
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 16 Dec 2010 06:36
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 20:00

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