Wednesday, February 8, 2012

One Per Cent - Heated hard drives could be super-quick

Jacob Aron, technology reporter

(Image: Vasko Miokovic/Vetta/Getty Images)

Physicists have discovered a new way to record data that could make future hard drives hundreds of times faster than existing technology - all you need is a little heat.

Hard drives store data using magnetic recording, with tiny sections of the disc magnetised in a particular direction to represent the 0 or 1 of a bit. Recording data involves flipping the direction, which is currently done using an external magnetic field. Now, a team of researchers led by Thomas Ostler at the University of York, UK have discovered that a short burst of heat can do the job much faster.

It was previously thought that heat could only assist in remagnetisation when used in conjunction with a magnetic field. It turns out that zapping a magnet with a laser for less than one trillionth of a second, momentarily raising the temperature by over 800 degrees Celsius, can have the same effect. The results were published today in the journal Nature Communications.

The researchers say this new method could be used to make hard drives capable of recording terabytes of information a second, which is hundreds of times faster than existing drives. The process also uses less energy than magnetic recording, meaning the new drives would be more energy efficient.

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