Advanced Imaging


Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

News Update


News Update

June 2001


Remember when a ten-megabyte disk drive was "all you will ever need" in a lifetime of computing? That was another time, another place. In today's image/info-hungry Internet economy ten megs won't even get you online. Ever on the move for "bigger, better, faster" IBM has created a revolutionary new type of magnetic coating which is expected to eventually quadruple the data density of current hard disk drive products to a level previously thought impossible. Until recently, the decay of data on magnetic media was considered normal and unavoidable over the lifetime of the product. This is due to the "superparamagnetic effect." When magnetic regions on the disk become too small, they predictably lose their magnetic orientations--the data--when densities reach 20 to 40 billion bits (gigabits) per square inch. The 100-gigabit density breakthrough was considered unattainable because of the superparamagnetic effect.

A few atoms of "pixie dust," as IBM scientists affectionately refer to the three-atom-thick layer of the element ruthenium--a precious metal similar to platinum, sandwiched between two magnetic layers--will break the data storage industry's most impervious barrier. Technically known as "antiferromagnetically-coupled (AFC) media," the coating is expected to increase hard-disk drive storage to 100 billion bits (gigabits) of data per square inch of disk area by 2003. AFC media is shipping in volume in IBM's Travelstar notebook. IBM plans to use AFC media throughout its disk drive product lines.

The increased densities made possible by AFC media will theoretically expedite the industry trend toward smaller disk-drive form factors which consume less energy and stimulate the creation of new and more efficient digital-media and data-intensive applications.

"AFC media is the first dramatic change in disk drive design made to avoid the high-density data decay due to the superparamagnetic effect," said Currie Munce, Director, Advanced Hard Disk Drive Technology at IBM's Storage Technology Division and Director of Storage Systems and Technology at IBM's Almaden Research Center. "Our deep understanding of the complex physical phenomena of how the AFC media works enabled us to be first in the industry to ship AFC media in products, and we're working to extend this technology to perform magnetic recording at 100 gigabits per square inch and beyond."

With AFC media, 100-gigabit data density could allow 400 gigabytes (GB) desktop drives, or the information in 400,000 books; 200 GB notebook drives, equivalent to 42 DVDs or more than 300 CDs; or 13 hours of MPEG-4 compressed digital video--about eight complete movies--for hand-held devices, within two years.

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