Physical details::Compact disc


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Physical details

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Diagram of CD layers.
A. A polycarbonate disc layer has the data encoded by using bumps.
B. A shiny layer reflects the laser.
C. A layer of lacquer protects the shiny layer.
D. Artwork is screen printed on the top of the disc.
E. A laser beam reads the CD and is reflected back to a sensor, which converts it into electronic data

A CD is made from {{safesubst:#invoke:convert|convert}} thick, polycarbonate plastic and weighs 15–20 grams.<ref name="AutoMR-13" /> From the center outward, components are: the center spindle hole (15 mm), the first-transition area (clamping ring), the clamping area (stacking ring), the second-transition area (mirror band), the program (data) area, and the rim. The inner program area occupies a radius from 25 to 58 mm.

A thin layer of aluminium or, more rarely, gold is applied to the surface, making it reflective. The metal is protected by a film of lacquer normally spin coated directly on the reflective layer. The label is printed on the lacquer layer, usually by screen printing or offset printing.

CD data is represented as tiny indentations known as "pits", encoded in a spiral track moulded into the top of the polycarbonate layer. The areas between pits are known as "lands". Each pit is approximately 100 nm deep by 500 nm wide, and varies from 850 nm to 3.5 µm in length. The distance between the tracks, the pitch, is 1.6 µm.

Scanning velocity is 1.2–1.4 m/s (constant linear velocity) – equivalent to approximately 500 RPM at the inside of the disc, and approximately 200 RPM at the outside edge. (A disc played from beginning to end slows its rotation rate during playback.)

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Comparison of various optical storage media

The program area is 86.05 cm2, and the length of the recordable spiral is (86.05 cm2 / 1.6 µm) = 5.38 km. With a scanning speed of 1.2 m/s, the playing time is 74 minutes, or 650 MiB of data on a CD-ROM. A disc with data packed slightly more densely is tolerated by most players (though some old ones fail). Using a linear velocity of 1.2 m/s and a narrower track pitch of 1.5 µm increases the playing time to 80 minutes, and data capacity to 700 MiB.

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The pits in a CD are 500 nm wide, between 830 nm and 3,000 nm long and 150 nm deep

A CD is read by focusing a 780 nm wavelength (near infrared) semiconductor laser through the bottom of the polycarbonate layer. The change in height between pits and lands results in a difference in the way the light is reflected. By measuring the intensity change with a photodiode, the data can be read from the disc.

The pits and lands themselves do not directly represent the zeros and ones of binary data. Instead, non-return-to-zero, inverted encoding is used: a change from pit to land or land to pit indicates a one, while no change indicates a series of zeros. There must be at least two and no more than ten zeros between each one, which is defined by the length of the pit. This in turn is decoded by reversing the eight-to-fourteen modulation used in mastering the disc, and then reversing the cross-interleaved Reed–Solomon coding, finally revealing the raw data stored on the disc. These encoding techniques (defined in the Red Book) were originally designed for CD Digital Audio, but they later became a standard for almost all CD formats (such as CD-ROM).


CDs are susceptible to damage during handling and from environmental exposure. Pits are much closer to the label side of a disc, enabling defects and contaminants on the clear side to be out of focus during playback. Consequently, CDs are more likely to suffer damage on the label side of the disc. Scratches on the clear side can be repaired by refilling them with similar refractive plastic or by careful polishing. The edges of CDs are sometimes incompletely sealed, allowing gases and liquids to corrode the metal reflective layer and to interfere with the focus of the laser on the pits.<ref name="clir">Council on Library and Information Resources: Conditions that Affect CDs and DVDs</ref> The fungus Geotrichum candidum, found in Belize, has been found to consume the polycarbonate plastic and aluminium found in CDs.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref><ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=news }}</ref>

Disc shapes and diameters

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Comparison of several forms of disk storage showing tracks (not-to-scale); green denotes start and red denotes end.
* Some CD-R(W) and DVD-R(W)/DVD+R(W) recorders operate in ZCLV, CAA or CAV modes.

The digital data on a CD begins at the center of the disc and proceeds toward the edge, which allows adaptation to the different size formats available. Standard CDs are available in two sizes. By far, the most common is {{safesubst:#invoke:convert|convert}} in diameter, with a 74- or 80-minute audio capacity and a 650 or 700 MiB (737,280,000-byte) data capacity. This capacity was reportedly specified by Sony executive Norio Ohga in May 1980 so as to be able to contain the entirety of the London Philharmonic Orchestra's recording of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on one disc.<ref name="Ohgaobituary" /> This is a myth according to Kees Immink, as the code format had not yet been decided in May 1980.<ref name="Immink2" /> The adoption of EFM one month later would have allowed a playing time of 97 minutes for 120 mm diameter or 74 minutes for a disc as small as 100 mm. <ref> Tim Buthe and Walter Mattli, The New Global Rulers: The Privatization of Regulation in the World Economy, Princeton University Press, Feb. 2011.</ref> The 120 mm diameter has been adopted by subsequent formats, including Super Audio CD, DVD, HD DVD, and Blu-ray Disc. Eighty-millimeter discs ("Mini CDs") were originally designed for CD singles and can hold up to 24 minutes of music or 210 MiB of data but never became popular.{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }} Today, nearly every single is released on a 120 mm CD, called a Maxi single.{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }}

Physical size Audio Capacity CD-ROM Data Capacity Definition
120 mm 74–80 min 650–700 MiB Standard size
80 mm 21–24 min 185–210 MiB Mini-CD size
80x54 mm – 80x64 mm ~6 min 10-65 MiB "Business card" size

Compact disc sections
Intro   History    Physical details    Logical formats    Manufacture    Writable compact discs    Copy protection    See also    References    Further reading    External links   

Physical details
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