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Recording data using heat could lead to faster, more efficient magnetic recording devices

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February 8, 2012

A recent study has shown that heat can be used to magnetically store data on tiny magnetic...

A recent study has shown that heat can be used to magnetically store data on tiny magnetic grains

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For the past several decades, it has been assumed that in order to store data on a magnetic medium, a magnetic field must be applied. Recently, however, an international team of scientists discovered that heat can be used instead of a magnetic field. Not only is this method reportedly more energy efficient, but it also theoretically allows for ten times the storage capacity and 300 times the performance of current hard drive technology.

Traditionally, hard drives have worked by using a magnetic field to invert the polarity of magnetic domains within the drive platter - the stronger that field, the faster bits of data can be recorded. In the new study, however, it was discovered that those same inversions could be attained by applying ultra-short pulses of heat (in the form of laser light) to a field of densely-packed nanometer-sized magnetic grains. The rate at which this could be done was equivalent to 200 Gigabytes per second.

Initially two grains have different magnetic orientation (black and white respectively), b...
Initially two grains have different magnetic orientation (black and white respectively), but after the application of a single pulse, the magnetic direction of both islands changes - further pulses repeat the process, switching the magnetic state back and forth

"Instead of using a magnetic field to record information on a magnetic medium, we harnessed much stronger internal forces and recorded information using only heat," said physicist Thomas Ostler from the University of York, which led the project. "This revolutionary method allows the recording of Terabytes (thousands of Gigabytes) of information per second, hundreds of times faster than present hard drive technology. As there is no need for a magnetic field, there is also less energy consumption."

Not only could the new technique save energy, but it might also be a way of utilizing the waste heat generated by computers.

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Nature Communications.

Source: University of York

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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8 Comments

The problem with stories like these is that while it's fascinating reading, it's also infuriating in that it likely won't happen in the next 30 years (my lifetime). I have been reading for many years about various "breakthrough" technologies for data storage, and not one of them has ever moved an inch closer to manufacture. Spintronics being a good example. Nice theory, nice in the laboratory, completely worthless till 2050.

The website ScienceDaily suffers from this same affliction. All stories about laboratory breakthroughs in cancer treatments, etc, yet none will probably make it to a hospital for another 100 years.

PimplyDykBallz
8th February, 2012 @ 05:39 pm PST

I share your frustration PDB, but I still want to hear about these breakthroughs. Most fall by the wayside but a few become a big deal and change everything--maybe even in our lifetime.

Arf
9th February, 2012 @ 08:22 am PST

In other contexts, when the technology does not enter the market quickly I sometimes start getting that "conspiracy theory" feeling. For example, NPR had a report of a surgeon that took a monkey (I think a chimp) and took another monkey's heart, dissolved the muscle and left some kind of integument (I am a Ph.D. philosopher, not a medical doctor)... then treated it with some cells for the 1st monkey, growing new muscle on it... then replaced the 1st monkey's heart with the newly grown one... it was genetically identical and thus not susceptible to rejection. When asked by the program host what the hurdles were for implementation in humans, the doctor said it would be "Easier" on humans because we are bigger and thus easier to operate on! Still haven't heard of human transplants with newly grown hearts.... why??? With big medical miracles in particular (look up Vlaerio Dagnoli/Super HDL) I sometimes think that giant pharmceutical companies are keeping us from getting them until they have milked existing patents for every billion they can get. With computer technology, I don't think the dynamic is the same. I bet that we'll see this one soon unless there is some significant problem in mass producing the recordable surface... we can definitely mass produce lasers.. or perhaps some problem in product longevity (CDR's are just barely usable in my view because of this... I've got a lot of data lost because of aging media). We'll see... I'd love to have several hundreds of terrabytes. Though frankly, I'd prefer they get that SuperHDL to the market!!

Lee Hester
9th February, 2012 @ 10:56 am PST

@PimplyDykBallz - every hear of an SSD drive? No moving parts? That was invented during your lifetime and has zero moving parts. Sort of blows your theory away, methinks.

Gene Jordan
9th February, 2012 @ 02:19 pm PST

I think we could reasonably see this within the next 5 years. I think the higher-storage hard drives already utilize something similar to this, in that the heads use a laser to "prime" where they're about to write, heating the unit to make it more susceptible to the magnetic field. This just goes one step further, a very clever development that should be easy to implement!

Joel Detrow
9th February, 2012 @ 02:26 pm PST

All this and every other technology requires to "enter the market", is capital resources, the will to proceed, and enough a market to be pursued. The problem with obtaining the capital to proceed is that, with this and like technologies, is that those that hold the purse strings, need to have have viable longevity of the product proven to make it a worthy investment. As many similar approaches to increasing digital storage are being researched, no one wants to get stuck owning the licensing for a product that, ultimately, comes in second place.

Randy E. Witte
13th February, 2012 @ 09:51 pm PST

I wonder if this constant heating of the platter will degrade the material and surfaces of the platter in the long run.

Sambath Pech
17th February, 2012 @ 04:17 pm PST

I wonder how variations in ambient temperature would affect this device, it would be easy to insulate in any case.

Alex Aricci
5th November, 2012 @ 10:35 pm PST
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