Current hard disk drives are up against their ceiling: a few hundred GB per inch. But a combination of two unique writing methods could lead to new HDDs that pack ten times as much data in the same space.

A new paper in the journal Nature Photonics outlines the process, which combines TAR (thermally-assisted recording) and BPR (bit-patterned recording) to pack bits of data in like sardines without the HDD's write head accidentally messing with surrounding bits (an occurrence awesomely dubbed superparamagnetism). Initially, researchers expect to see densities of 1 terabit, or about 125 gigabytes per inch with the new method, though think it could eventually yield densities as high as 10Tb, about 1.2 terabytes per inch. Ars explains:

thermally-assisted magnetic recording (TAR), heats an area of a small-grain surface to write it, and then cools the surface once the writing is done...bit-patterned recording (BPR), writes to a surface that has "magnetic islands" lithographed in. The islands isolate each write event so that superparamagnetic effects can't bleed into other bits...

Each of the methods alone don't contribute huge improvements to data density, and can only get up to two to three hundred gigabits per square inch....When BPR and TAR's powers are combined, though, each solves the other's problem. With BPR's magnetic islands, small-grain media is no longer needed, and TAR ensures that only the bit that is heated is written, eliminating the need for a specific size of write head. Together, they form a writing system that can limit bits to tiny areas on inexpensive surfaces, and don't affect surrounding data bits.

Score one for nanoscale teamwork! [Ars via Engadget]


Image credit JackAZ Photography