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How to increase the data storage density of HDDs - just add salt

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November 1, 2011

A new process using table salt increases the data storage density of HDDs by six times (Im...

A new process using table salt increases the data storage density of HDDs by six times (Image: Kamil Porembski via Flickr)

While Solid State Drives (SSDs) are seen as the way of the future for computer data storage and their prices have started to come down as their capacities increase, they still can't compete with traditional Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) in terms of bang for your buck. Now a team of researchers from Singapore has moved the goalposts yet again and shown traditional HDDs still have some life in them by developing a process that can increase the data recording density of HDDs to six times that of current models.

The researchers from the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE), who worked in collaboration with the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Data Storage Institute (DSI), liken the new process to packing a suitcase - the neater you pack, the more you can carry.

Conventional HDDs store data using randomly distributed nanoscopic magnetic grains, with a few tens of grains used to form one bit. This allows the latest model HDDs to hold up to 0.5 Terabit/in2 of information. Using nanopatterning to create uniform arrays of magnetic bits, the team was able to increase the data storage density to up to 3.3 Terabit/in2.

The secret of the new technology lies in the use of an extremely high-resolution e-beam lithography process that produces super fine nano-sized structures. Dr Joel Yang, the IMRE scientist who heads the project, found that adding sodium chloride - or table salt - to a developer solution used in existing lithography processes produced highly defined nanostructures down to 4.5 nm half pitch, without the need for expensive equipment upgrades.

"In addition to making the bits, we demonstrated that they can be used to store data," said Dr Yang.

This "salty developer solution" method, which was invented by Dr Yang when he was a graduate student at the MIT, means a HDD that currently holds 1 TB of data could, in the future, hold 6 TB of data in the same size unit.

Source: Agency for Science, Technology and Research

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
6 Comments

So, what do I do? Toss a teaspoon of salt on my external hard drive? I like the idea of turning my 1TB into 6TB, but what do I have to do? Toss a pinch over my left shoulder? I mean, come on, just a tad more information would have helped to make this a professional article.

lonv166
2nd November, 2011 @ 03:28 am PDT

lonv166 I believe the information you requested is already in the article if you had read the entire article maybe you'd have seen it:

"The secret of the new technology lies in the use of an extremely high-resolution e-beam lithography process that produces super fine nano-sized structures. Dr Joel Yang, the IMRE scientist who heads the project, found that adding sodium chloride - or table salt - to a developer solution used in existing lithography processes produced highly defined nanostructures down to 4.5 nm half pitch, without the need for expensive equipment upgrades."

I have to say the statement about turning a 1tb drive into a 6tb drive is misleading. I think what they were trying to say was: This process would allow the same tools, dies and wafers to produce a drive six times as dense as they can currently produce. Which is great for the manufacturers but only marginally exciting for us end users. There will be no Johny Mnemonic memory multiplexers here.

VirtualGathis
2nd November, 2011 @ 11:14 am PDT

@Ionv166 - The information is in the article for you to read. Quoted Below:

The secret of the new technology lies in the use of an extremely high-resolution e-beam lithography process that produces super fine nano-sized structures. Dr Joel Yang, the IMRE scientist who heads the project, found that adding sodium chloride - or table salt - to a developer solution used in existing lithography processes produced highly defined nanostructures down to 4.5 nm half pitch, without the need for expensive equipment upgrades.

You do nothing but wait for this technology to be marketed and then buy new hardware. It didn't say that you could hold 6TB on your 1 TB, it said you could hold 6TB on a drive that is the -same size- as your 1TB -unit-.

Christian Puddleglum Cepel
2nd November, 2011 @ 12:35 pm PDT

It also means that all the ISPs on earth won't be using six times the energy a little bit down the road. I remember seeing a one gig drive for a grand - it means we are not quite at the top of the S curve for hard drives.

Daniel Gooch
2nd November, 2011 @ 10:05 pm PDT

As end users, we arent going to transform our 1TB drive into a 6TB. The manufactures are going to use it to inject more capacity into New Drives, thats still good news for us and competition will keep the price down.

Terry Penrose
5th November, 2011 @ 12:03 am PDT

Um I am fairly sure IONv was being funny guys...

Michael Mantion
13th November, 2011 @ 06:04 pm PST
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