Optical Drive Physics: Data Storage & Reflection

In summary, an optical drive reads data from a disk by shining light through the disk and measuring the distance to the pits. The closer the light is to the pits, the more data will be read.
  • #1
guppster
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0
I have been recently wondering how is data stored on and retrieved from optical devices like CDs, DVDs, and Bluray. What makes these different storage types different from each other?

Why will a silver mirror not show a reflection when you sand the surface with very coarse sandpaper? Is it because the coarse sandpaper will make small dents in the material, so the light will reflect off the surface in multiple directions, making it hard to see a clear image or is it because of another reason?
 
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  • #2
150 views is actually quite a lot of interest - however, the questions involve things that are covered at a very junior level in school and, anyway, are easy to google for yourself. So you'd get a better response if you included your attempts to find out with specific questions about what you don't understand.

However, it is more likely that people are just getting back to you ... it can take days to get a reply: there's ages to go before we can safely conclude that there is little interest in the question. You got an answer to the other thread while I was writing this for instance. (Posting two threads with the same subject can reduce your response rate too.) Since you generally write good questions I'd be more patient if I were you :)

You showed you had a go thinking through the mirror one - so I'll do that first.
The common household mirror has a sheet of glass in front of the main reflective surface. At the front surface of the glass there are three main things happening to the light - 1. reflection, 2. transmission+refraction, 3. surface scattering

For the mirror to work you need 1 and 3 to be small so the reflection off the back surface dominates. Roughing the surface up makes 3 dominate. These processes are general to all surfaces. So your intuition there was good.

But do you see how basic that description had to be - it is hard to describe without sounding patronizing. Of course you know there's glass in front of a mirror!

Optical drives are quite complex in the details but the basic concept is to burn little pits in the metal surface in the disk. The pits are positioned to represent 1s and 0s. The depth of the pits is measured using LED lasers. The amount of data you can fit on a disk depends on the quality of the materials, the encoding (which may include data compression) and the wavelength of the light used to burn/read the pits. (Shorter the wavelength the closer together the pits can be, the more data can be stored in the same place.) I assume here that I don't need to explain how lasers can measure distance or how data can be stored as 1s and 0s?

See also:
http://www.opticsetc.com/how-does-an-optical-drive-work.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_scattering
 
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  • #3
Thanks for the reply Simon Bridge!
Yeah, I had already understood the mirror question, but your last paragraph has really helped me :)
 
  • #4
It's all good then :) the link has a much more detailed description.
In fact - diffraction from the pits in the surface is what causes the colors you see when you shine white light on a CD.
 
  • #5


I can provide some insight into the physics behind data storage and reflection in optical devices. Optical drives, such as CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs, use a laser to read and write data onto the surface of the disc. This is done through a process called optical data storage.

In optical data storage, a laser beam is used to create tiny pits and lands on the surface of the disc. These pits and lands represent the binary data (0s and 1s) that make up the information stored on the disc. When the laser beam hits a pit, it is reflected differently than when it hits a land, allowing the data to be read by a sensor in the drive.

The main difference between CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs lies in the size and density of these pits and lands. CDs have larger pits and lands, allowing them to store less data than DVDs, which have smaller pits and lands. Blu-ray discs have even smaller pits and lands, allowing them to store even more data than DVDs. This difference in size and density is what makes these storage types different from each other.

Now, to address the question about why a silver mirror does not show a reflection when sanded with coarse sandpaper, the answer lies in the texture of the surface. When sandpaper is used to roughen the surface of a mirror, it creates tiny scratches and dents on the surface. This disrupts the smooth, reflective surface of the mirror, causing the light to scatter in all different directions instead of reflecting back in a clear image.

In other words, the light is not able to bounce off the surface at a consistent angle, making it difficult to see a clear reflection. This is similar to how data cannot be accurately read from a scratched or damaged optical disc, as the laser cannot properly read the pits and lands on the surface. So, while the coarse sandpaper does indeed create dents on the surface, the main reason for the lack of reflection is due to the disruption of the smooth surface necessary for clear reflection.
 

Related to Optical Drive Physics: Data Storage & Reflection

1. What is an optical drive and how does it work?

An optical drive is a device used for reading and writing data on optical discs such as CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs. It uses a laser to read and write data on the disc by reflecting light off its surface. When the laser hits a bump or pit on the disc, it creates a pattern that represents the data being stored. This data is then translated and read by the drive's electronics.

2. How does data storage work in an optical drive?

Data storage in an optical drive is based on the reflection of light. The disc's surface is coated with a reflective layer that reflects the laser light. The data is stored in binary code, with 1s and 0s represented by bumps and pits on the disc's surface. The laser reads these patterns and converts them into digital data.

3. What is the difference between a CD, DVD, and Blu-ray disc in terms of data storage?

The main difference between these discs is their storage capacity. A CD can store up to 700 MB of data, while a DVD can hold 4.7 GB (single-layer) or 8.5 GB (dual-layer) of data. Blu-ray discs have the highest storage capacity, with a single-layer disc holding 25 GB and a dual-layer disc holding 50 GB of data. This is due to the difference in the size and density of the bumps and pits on each disc's surface.

4. How does the laser in an optical drive read and write data?

The laser in an optical drive emits a beam of light that passes through a series of lenses, which focus the light onto the disc's surface. The light is then reflected off the disc's surface and back to a sensor in the drive. When reading data, the laser detects the changes in reflected light caused by the bumps and pits on the disc's surface. When writing data, the laser heats up the disc's surface, creating bumps and pits to represent the data being written.

5. Can an optical drive be used for other purposes besides data storage?

Yes, an optical drive can also be used for other purposes such as playing music or movies. The laser in the drive can read and decode audio and video data stored on the disc, allowing it to be played through a computer or other device. Additionally, some optical drives have the ability to burn data onto blank discs, making them useful for creating backups or sharing files.

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