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Optical recording characteristics of an ion-exchanged inorganic photochromic media is investigated. The experiments show that the ion-exchanged recording layer can support high data recording density with excellent optical readout contrast. Its recording speed at available red diode laser power can be comparable and even faster than most CD-erasable drives. A focused UV light or electron beams can erase the recorded data on the ion-exchanged layer and facilitate further data rewriting by focused laser beams. The recording medium has excellent thermal stability and supports nondestructive data readout for erasable optical data storage applications. © 1998 American Institute of Physics.