Western Digital's GHST, formerly disk unit of Hitachi, announced the development of helium filled hard drives, which are more energy efficient and allow for greater storage capacity than typical hard drives.

GHST, formerly disk unit of Hitachi, announced the development of helium filled hard drives, which are more energy efficient and allow for greater storage capacity than typical hard drives.

Hard drives are not sealed air-tight – they are affixed with dedicated channels so the device can balance its internal pressure with changes in exterior pressure.  Due to this fact, they come with a typical mixture of air inside of them, which unfortunately causes turbulence to the platters which often spin in excess of 7,000 revolutions per minute.

One way to solve this problem, GHST discovered, was to seal off the drive and fill the insides with helium. According to the company, this achievement caused a 23% increase of power efficiency, and the ability to add two extra platters to 3.5” disks. With the helium, hard drive capacities can reach approximately 6 TB. Currently, even 4TB hard drives are extraordinarily uncommon.

The creation of such a drive posed challenges – typically, the air channels in a hard drive are used to alleviate pressure. With the air channels removed on the helium drives, GHST had to produce strong enough frames, so that outside changes in pressure would not influence pressure internally.

Additionally, the drives had to be specially made in order to contain the helium, which is a notoriously diffusive gas.

Finally – although this is speculative – the company had to find a way to do all this whilst keeping production costs cheap enough to offer the disks at a competitive price. Of course, given the unparalleled capacity of these devices, there currently isn’t much competition of which to speak – at least, not for singular drives.

Any raid array, however, can store far more than 6 TB, and could end up doing so at a much cheaper cost by using less expensive disks. So, where the helium drives are currently unparalleled (besides their power and temperature efficiency) is the data capacity they can fit into a single HDD.

HGST announced that the drives, which apparently took six years to develop, will ship next year. There has been no speak of absolute prices, but one can expect these drives to cost at least a little more than the average HDD, due in part to helium costs, and other expenses that come with the production of these unique units.

Source: ZDNet