Judging by the latest news, the good old hard drive is far from dead as it seems that we can expect a six fold increase in storage capacity in the near future, at least if researched by Singaporean scientists end up catching on with the hard drive manufacturers. What's surprising is that simple table salt, also known as ammonium chloride is what made it all possible.
Judging by the latest news, the good old hard drive is far from dead as it seems that we can expect a six fold increase in storage capacity in the near future, at least if researched by Singaporean scientists end up catching on with the hard drive manufacturers. What's surprising is that simple table salt, also known as sodium chloride is what made it all possible.
The development is actually two fold, as the scientists from Singapore's Institute of Material Research and Engineering (IMRE) as well as ones from Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) with some help from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Data Storage Institute (DSI) used bit-patterned media which is cutting edge hard drive technology and then applied a sprinkling of salt to really spice things up.
Ok, that's not quite true, as the salt was added as a step in the e-beam lithography process as this helped to produce a much more defined nanostructure on the disk surface. The end result is a structured surface on the disk, whereas traditional hard drives have randomly distributed nanscopic magnetic "grains" (measuring around 7-8nm each) where multiples of tens are used to store a single bit, the researched managed to create a disk where the disk surface consist of tiny "islands" (measuring around 10nm each) instead and each island can store a bit.
The method used still requires a lot of refinement, as on average the researches managed to boost the storage density from 0.5 Terrabit per square inch to 1.9 Terabit per square inch, they also managed to reach data densities as high as 3.3 Terabit per square inch. As you can see from the electron microscopy image above, the data is packed extremely dense by using this new technology. However, this is just a step towards the researcher's goal to hit 10 Terabit per square inch, although this isn't likely to happen overnight.
Currently there are two competing standards in the future of hard drive technology, one is the bit-patterned technology used by the Singaporean researches and this is also the technology that Hitachi GST (which might soon be part of Western Digital) and something called heat-assisted magnetic recording or HAMR which is a technology Seagate is pushing for. The long of the short is that the current perpendicular drive technology is about to run out of steam once storage densities of 1 to 1.5 Terabits per square inch is reached as the bits stored will be too small and become unstable due to the fairly unstructured surface of the disks. HAMR is expected to happen sooner than bit-patterning, although it's possible that this new break-through process will change all that.
We'll definitely be keeping an eye on things, as in as much as SSD's are getting cheaper and the density is going up, they just can't compete with hard drives in terms of cost per GB. On top of that we're storing more data than ever, so larger hard drives is a must, but with 4TB drives starting to trickle out from the manufacturers, it seems like we have little to worry about for the time being at least.