Title:
Multilevel phase change optical recording medium
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A multilevel phase change optical recording medium comprises first to N-th (N≧2) phase change optical recording layers, wherein an i-th recording layer and a j-th recording layer, which are two recording layers arbitrarily selected from the first to N-th recording layers, meet the conditions of Ti>Tmi and τwixi, and Tj<Tmj or τwjxj, with respect to a particular recording laser beam selected from recording laser beams having different power levels, where T is the maximum temperature of the recording layer in a recording operation, Tm is the melting point of the recording layer, Tx is the crystallizing temperature of the recording layer, τw is a time required for the recording layer to be cooled down from Tm to Tx after the laser beam irradiation, and τx is the crystallizing time of the recording layer.



Inventors:
Ichihara, Katsutaro (Yokohama-shi, JP)
Application Number:
10/212097
Publication Date:
12/26/2002
Filing Date:
08/06/2002
Assignee:
ICHIHARA KATSUTARO
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
369/275.2, 428/64.5, 428/913, 430/945, G9B/7.014, G9B/7.024, G9B/7.099, G9B/7.139, G9B/7.145
International Classes:
G11B7/00; G11B7/0045; G11B7/005; G11B7/125; G11B7/24; G11B7/244; G11B7/30; (IPC1-7): G11B7/24
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Primary Examiner:
ANGEBRANNDT, MARTIN J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Intellectual Property Group (McLean, VA, US)
Claims:
1. A combination comprising: (a) a recording device adapted to generate recording laser beams having different power levels during a recording operations; and (b) a multilevel phase change optical recording medium received in said recording device so as to enable said recording laser beams having said different power levels to record data thereon during said recording operation, said recording laser beams each irradiating the same side of said recording medium, said medium comprising: first to Nth rewritable phase change optical recording layers, N being greater than or equal to two, wherein said recording layers have different compositions and are separated by intermediate layers and are arranged within a depth of focus of a laser beam; said recording layers including an i-th recording layer and a j-th recording layer each being arbitrarily selected from said recording layers and having the following characteristics for a recording beam selected from the aforementioned recording laser beams having different power levels: Ti>Tmi and τwixi, and Tj<Tmj or τwjxj, wherein Ti and Tj are the maximum temperatures to which the selected laser beam respectively heats said i-th and j-th recording layers during the recording operation, Tmi and Tmj are the temperatures at which said i-th and j-th recording layers will respectively melt, τwi and τwj are the times required for said i-th and j-th recording layers to respectively cool from Tmi and Tmj to respective crystallizing temperatures Txi and Twj for each of said i-th and j-th layers, and τxi and τxj are the times required for said i-th and j-th layers to respectively crystallize.

2. The combination according to claim 1, wherien the j-th layer is lower in the maximum temperature and shorter in the cooling time compared with the i-th layer.

3. The combination according to claim 1, wherein said medium further comprises an intermediate layer having lower thermal conductivity than that of the recording layer and provided on the j-th layers.

4. The combination according to claim 1, wherein said medium further comprises an upper protective layer and a reflective layer on the j-th layer, wherein the upper protective layer has a higher thermal conductivity than that of the recording layer.

5. The combination according to claim 1, wherein the i-th layer consists of Ge2Sb2Te5 and the j-th layer consists of Ge2Sb2Te5 doped with 5 at % of Sb.

6. The combination according to claim 1, wherein the i-th layer is closer to the substrate than the j-th layer.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates to a phase change optical recording medium capable of multilevel recording.

[0002] Optical disk memories capable of reproducing or recording and reproducing information by laser beam irradiation are widely used as mass capacity, high-speed accessible and portable storage media for data files such as audio, video and computer data and expected for further development. In order to improve storage density of such optical disks, many techniques are proposed: for example, use of a short-wavelength gas laser for master disk cutting, use of a short-wavelength semiconductor laser as an operating light source, increasing the numerical aperture of an objective lens, reducing the thickness of the disk, and so on. For recordable optical disks, mark length recording and land-groove recording, in addition to the foregoing techniques, are proposed.

[0003] Also, as a high-density oriented technique, a method of recording and reproducing multilevel data using a multilayered recording medium has been proposed. A simplest multilayered recording medium comprises two or more recording layers, which are allocated to different focal points and accessed separately for recording or reproducing. The method may provide higher reliability in both recording and reproducing operations. However, because only one of the recording layers can be accessed at once, it is difficult to perform high-speed recording and reproducing operations.

[0004] There is proposed a magnetooptical recording medium comprising two or more recording layers arranged within the depth of focus of a laser beam with an attempt at multilevel recording in respective recording layers by using various levels of laser power or recording field intensity and multilevel reproducing by analog processing of read-out signals. The read-out signals from such a magnetooptical recording medium are, however, based on slight Kerr rotation angle from which a desirable level of carrier-to-noise ratio (CNR) can only be obtained by binary digital processing. Therefore, it will hardly be feasible to subject the read-out signals to successful multilevel analog processing.

[0005] On the other hand, in a phase change optical recording medium, particularly rewritable medium, intense read-out signals can be obtained, so that it is expected to realize multilevel processing. However, such a multilayered phase change optical recording medium capable of recording and reproducing multilevel data simultaneously at a high speed has not yet been in practical use.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0006] It is an object of the present invention to provide a multilayered phase change optical recording medium that is capable of recording and reproducing multilevel data at a high speed.

[0007] A multilevel phase change optical recording medium according to the present invention comprises first to N-th phase change optical recording layers (N≧2), wherein an i-th recording layer and a j-th recording layer, which are two recording layers arbitrarily selected from the first to N-th recording layers, meet the conditions of:

[0008] Ti>Tmi and τwixi, and

[0009] Tj<Tmj or τwjxj,

[0010] with respect to a particular recording laser beam selected from recording laser beams having different power levels, where T is the maximum temperature of the recording layer in a recording operation, Tm is the melting point of the recording layer, Tx is the crystallizing temperature of the recording layer, τw is a time required for the recording layer to be cooled down from Tm to Tx after the laser beam irradiation, and τx is the crystallizing time of the recording layer.

[0011] A method of recording and reproducing for a multilevel phase change optical recording medium comprising two or more recording layers having different melting points and/or crystallizing temperatures according to the present invention comprises the steps of: irradiating the multilevel phase change optical recording medium with recording beams having different power levels, thereby performing recording; and irradiating the recorded multilevel phase change optical recording medium with a reproducing beam to detect reproducing signals, followed by digitizing the reproducing signals, thereby performing reproducing.

[0012] Additional objects and advantages of the invention will be set forth in the description which follows, and in part will be obvious from the description, or may be learned by practice of the invention. The objects and advantages of the invention may be realized and obtained by means of the instrumentalities and combinations particularly pointed out in the appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWING

[0013] The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated in and constitute a part of the specification, illustrate presently preferred embodiments of the invention, and together with the general description given above and the detailed description of the preferred embodiments given below, serve to explain the principles of the invention.

[0014] FIG. 1 is a cross sectional view of the multilayered multilevel phase change optical recording medium according to the present invention;

[0015] FIGS. 2A and 2B are diagrams showing the thermal response of two recording layers (i-th and j-th layers) in the multilayered multilevel phase change optical recording medium of the present invention;

[0016] FIG. 3 is a cross sectional view showing an example of the multilayered multilevel phase change optical recording medium of the present invention;

[0017] FIG. 4 is a schematic view of an optical disk drive used in the present invention; and

[0018] FIGS. 5A and 5B are diagrams showing recording signals and reproducing signals in the multilayered multilevel phase change optical recording medium of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0019] The present invention will be described in more detail.

[0020] FIG. 1 is a cross sectional view of a multilevel phase change optical recording medium according to the present invention. As shown in FIG. 1, a lower protective layer 2 is formed on a substrate 1. On the lower protective layer 2, there are alternately provided, from the lower side where a laser beam is incident on, first to N-th (N≧2) recording layers R1, R2, . . . , RN-1 and RN, and intermediate layers S1, . . . , and SN-1. On the uppermost recording layer RN, an upper protective layer 3 and a reflective layer 4 are formed. For recording data on the phase change optical recording medium, a plurality of recording laser beams having different power levels is used. The phase change optical recording layers are located within the depth of focus of each of the laser beams.

[0021] Now, let us study two recording layers, referred to as the i-th layer and the j-th layer (1≦i, 2≦j, and i≠j), which are arbitrarily selected from the first to N-th recording layers R1 to RN constituting the phase change optical recording medium of the present invention. FIGS. 2A and 2B show the thermal responses of the i-th and j-th layers, respectively, when these layers are irradiated with the recording laser beams. In these diagrams, two profiles denoted by the letters “A” and “B” represent thermal responses corresponding to two recording laser beams different in power level, respectively. The power levels of the two laser beams are in a relationship of A<B.

[0022] The important factors in phase change optical recording are the maximum temperature and the time response during cooling of the recording layer. Now, assume that T is a maximum temperature of the recording layer in a recording operation, Tm is the melting point of the recording layer, Tx is the crystallizing temperature of the recording layer, τw is a time required for the recording layer to be cooled from Tm to Tx after the laser beam irradiation, and τx is the crystallizing time of the recording layer. The above values for the i-th and j-th layers are represented by subscripts “i” and “j”, respectively.

[0023] First, the thermal responses when the recording layers are irradiated with the recording laser beam “A” are described. The i-th layer is heated up to higher than its melting point Tmi and takes a time τwiA to be cooled down from the melting point Tmi to the crystallizing temperature Txi. Amorphous recording marks are formed in the i-th layer if the crystallizing time txi of the i-th layer is longer than the time τwiA, whereas no recording marks are formed in the contrary case. Here, assume that the recording marks are formed in the i-th layer. The j-th layer is restrained its temperature raise by making use of a material having higher melting point Tmj or by the effect of the intermediate layer. In the j-th layer, the maximum temperature Tj is lower than the melting point Tmj. Accordingly, no recording marks are formed in the j-th layer regardless of the cooling speed. Therefore, with respect to the recording laser beam “A”, the conditions of Ti>Tmi and τwixi for i-th layer, and Tj<Tmj for j-th layer are established simultaneously. This permits the recording laser beam “A” to form recording marks in the i-th layer selectively.

[0024] Next, the thermal responses when the recording layers are irradiated with the recording laser beam “B” are described. The laser beam “B” is higher in intensity compared with the laser beam “A” and causes the i-th layer to rise up far over the melting point Tmi. The cooling time τwiB of the i-th layer is longer than the cooling time τwiA. Amorphous recording marks are formed in the i-th layer if the crystallizing time τxi (>τwiA) of the i-th layer is longer than the time τwiB, whereas no recording marks are formed in the contrary case. Any one of the two cases may be selected depending on involved conditions. Here, assume that the recording marks are also formed in the i-th layer under the power level “B”. When the laser beam “B” is used, the j-th layer is heated up to higher temperature than the melting point Tmj with the cooling time being τwjB. Recording marks are formed in the j-th layer if the crystallizing time τxj of the j-th layer is greater than τwjB, whereas no recording marks are formed in the contrary case. Here, assume that the recording marks are also formed in the j-th layer.

[0025] Although not shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B in order to avoid complexity, when a recording laser beam “C” having a higher power level than that of the laser beam “B” is used, thermal responses are as follows. In this case, both the i-th and j-th layers are heated up to higher temperatures than their melting points. When the cooling time τwiC of the i-th layer is longer than τxi (>τwiB), no recording marks are formed in the i-th layer. If the cooling time τwjC of the j-th layer is shorter than τxj (>τwjB), recording marks are formed in the j-th layer.

[0026] Table 1 shows the relationship between recording power levels and whether recording marks are formed or not. In the Table 1, the case where the recording marks are formed is expressed by “1”, and the case where no recording marks are formed is expressed by “0”. Note that “O” means a power level lower than the threshold for forming recording marks in the i-th layer. 1

TABLE 1
Power level
OABC
i-th0110
layer
j-th0011
layer

[0027] As apparent from Table 1, the phase change optical recording medium of the present invention can attain four different recording states by irradiating two recording layers, which are different in thermal response, with recording laser beams having different power levels. On the other hand, conventional phase change recording medium permits only two recording states of “0” and “1”. Accordingly, the present invention can improve recording density to two times greater than that of the conventional recording medium. Even if the selection of power level corresponding to the recording laser beam “C” shown in Table 1 is not allowed, the recording density can be improved by 1.5 times greater than that of the conventional recording medium. Moreover, the two recording layers can be accessed simultaneously, so that the high-speed recording operation can be possible.

[0028] Furthermore, more than two recording layers may be used for multilevel recording, although design of the recording medium becomes difficult. In principle, with respect to a recording medium having N recording layers, recording density can be improved to 2N times at maximum, to 2N times even if a large design margin is taken into account, and to (N+1)/2 times at least.

[0029] The phase change optical recording medium of the present invention is reproduced by continuously irradiating tracks on which recording patterns are formed with a laser beam having a read-out level. In this operation, a plurality of output levels is obtained depending on recording states. Intensity of output signals from the phase change optical recording medium is high enough, and a difference between output levels is also high enough. Therefore, a multilevel processing can be easily performed.

[0030] An example of the present invention will now be described referring to the accompanying drawings.

[0031] FIG. 3 is a cross sectional view of the multilayered multilevel phase change optical recording medium in this example. As shown in FIG. 3, a lower protective layer 2 is formed on a substrate 1. On the lower protective layer 2, there are provided a first recording layer (the i-th layer) R1, an intermediate layer S1, a second recording layer (the j-th layer) R2, an upper protective layer 3, and a reflective layer 4. The thicknesses of these layers are so adjusted that the first and second recording layers are located within the depth of focus of recording laser beams.

[0032] FIG. 4 illustrates the construction of an optical disk drive used for recording and read-out operations. The optical disk 11 shown in FIG. 3 is mounted to a rotary shaft of a spindle motor 12. In recording operation, a laser 22 is operated by a light source controller 21 to emit a short-pulsed laser beam having a relatively high power level. The laser beam is passed through an objective lens 23, a half mirror 24 and a focusing lens 25 and then is incident onto the optical disk 11, thereby forming recording marks. In the read-out operation, a laser 22 is operated to emit a laser beam having a low power level. The laser beam is incident onto the optical disk 11 on which recording marks are formed. The laser beam reflected from the optical disk 11 is passed through the focusing lens 25 and reflected by the half mirror 24, and then is sent to the reproducing unit 26 where reflectance change between recording marks and non-recorded region is detected.

[0033] The optical disk drive has substantially similar arrangement to a conventional type, but the laser 22 can emit recording laser beams having different power levels by multilevel power modulation.

[0034] The operational conditions of the optical disk drive are as follows: linear velocity of the disk is 10 m/s, recording pulse frequency is 10 MHz, recording pulse width is 50 ns, laser beam wavelength is 650 nm, and numerical aperture (NA) of the objective lens is 0.6. When NA of the objective lens is 0.6, full width at half maximum (FWHM) of the beam spot becomes about 0.5 μm. The recording pulse width of 50 ns is substantially equal to duration within which FWHM of the beam spot passes the recording layer. This example uses recording laser beams having four different power levels of 6 mW, 9 mW, 12 mW and 15 mW corresponding to the power levels “O”, “A”, “B” and “C” shown in Table 1.

[0035] The thermal characteristics of the first and second recording layers are so adjusted that they meet suitable conditions for multilevel recording. The thermal conductivity and thickness of other layers are also designed in accordance with the thermal characteristics of the recording layers.

[0036] In this example, the first recording layer consists of 15 nm-thick Ge2Sb2Te5, and the second recording layer consists of 15 nm-thick Ge2Sb2Te5+5 at % -Sb. The first recording layer has a melting point Tm1 of 630° C. and a crystallizing time τx1 of 50 ns. The second recording layer has a melting point Tm2 of 630° C., equal to that of the first recording layer, and a crystallizing time τx2 of 70 ns. The lower protective layer 2 consists of about 150 nm-thick ZnS—SiO2, the intermediate layer S1 consists of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) which is a good thermal insulator, the upper protective layer 3 consists of 20 nm-thick Si—N which is high in heat radiating effect, and the reflective layer 4 consists of 50-nm thick Al having a high thermal conductivity. These layers are deposited by conventional magnetron sputtering.

[0037] Thermal responses of both recording layers calculated from the above conditions are as follows: When the recording laser beams having power levels of 6 mW, 9 mW, 12 mW and 15 mW are used, respectively, the maximum temperatures will be 500° C., 700° C., 900° C. and 1100° C. for the first recording layer, and 450° C., 600° C., 750° C. and 900° C. for the second recording layer.

[0038] Also, calculated values of duration within which the recording layers are retained below the melting point and above the crystallizing temperature in the cooling process after the irradiation of recording laser beams of various power levels (referred to as a cooling time hereinafter) are as follows. The cooling times for the first recording layer will be 30 ns, 45 ns and 60 ns corresponding to the power levels of “A”, “B” and “C”, respectively. The maximum temperature of the second recording layer is maintained below the melting point in the case where the power level “A”, so that there is no need to consider its cooling time. The cooling times for the second recording layer will be 30 ns and 50 ns corresponding to the power levels of “B” and “C”, respectively.

[0039] As described above, the second recording layer is lower in the maximum temperature and shorter in the cooling time compared with the first recording layer. This can be explained by the fact that the recording laser beam is incident onto the side of the first recording layer, temperature difference between the first and second recording layers is maintained because the intermediate layer having a low thermal conductivity, and heat is taken away from the second recording layer through the upper protective layer and the reflective layer having a high thermal conductivity.

[0040] Judging from the relationship between the maximum temperature and the cooling time of each recording layer, recording marks will be formed neither first nor second layers if the power level is “O”, will be formed only in the first recording layer if the power level is “A”, will be formed in both first and second recording layers if the power level is “B”, and will be formed only in the second recording layer if the power level is “C”.

[0041] The actual operations of recording and reproducing by the optical disk drive shown in FIG. 4 are as follows. While the spindle motor is operated to rotate the optical disk at a linear speed of 10 m/s, a laser beam spot having a read-out power level (for example, 1 mW) is focused on a desired track of the optical disk and then recording is performed by using laser beams having different recording power levels. Read-out is performed by continuously irradiating the recorded tracks with a laser beam having a read-out power level to detect read-out signals.

[0042] FIG. 5A shows an example of recording signal train. This diagram represents that recording is performed by irradiating a track with recording laser beams having three different power levels of “A”, “B” and “C” after the irradiation of laser beam having a read-out power level R. The recording frequency is set to 10 MHz. In FIG. 5A, the power level is set to “B” during the period of time t1, t5, and t7, to “C” during the period of time t2 and t4, and to “A” during the period of time t3 and t6. In a sequence of t1 to t7, a recording pattern of “1010111” is formed in the first recording layer, and simultaneously, another recording pattern of “110110” is formed in the second recording layer.

[0043] The read-out signals are shown in FIG. 5B. The read-out signals include a peak level at a position where recording marks are formed in both first and second recording layers, a bottom level (without including the non-recording level) at a position where a recording mark is formed in only the second recording layer, and an intermediate level at a position where a recording mark is formed in only the first recording layer. This result can be explained by the fact that reflected laser beam from the first recording layer is directly incident upon the detecting system, whereas reflected laser beam from the second recording layer passes through the first recording layer and is then incident upon the detecting system.

[0044] The read-out signals shown in FIG. 5B can be digitized by setting windows with appropriate slice levels including the individual output levels, even if the output level is fluctuated to some extent. For example, the output levels of “A”, “B” and “C” may be digitized to “10”, “11”, and “01”. Assuming that the non-recording level is “00”, the recording and read-out can be performed at as a high density as two times that of the conventional medium.

[0045] The material of the recording layer is not limited to GeSbTe-based material employed in the above example and may be selected from other phase change optical recording materials including InSbTe-based and GeSbTe-based materials. Although the thermal responses of the recording layers in the above example are adjusted by varying the composition in the same material system, they may be controlled by using two or more materials having appropriate melting points and crystallizing times.

[0046] Additional advantages and modifications will readily occur to those skilled in the art. Therefore, the invention in its broader aspects is not limited to the specific details and representative embodiments shown and described herein. Accordingly, various modifications may be made without departing from the spirit or scope of the general inventive concept as defined by the appended claims and their equivalents.