Friday, October 7th 2011

R&D: TDK Uses Lasers To Double Hard Disc Capacity, Helping Save HDs From Extinction

Here’s a development that will bring joy to those that prefer to hear mechanical noises from their hard discs instead of the inky silence of the new solid state drives. The current perpendicular magnetic recording technology used in today’s hard discs are due to hit a brick wall within a couple of generations or so. This will finally give SSDs the chance to make mechanical drives obsolete once and for all when their capacities increase and the prices drop. To get around this, TDK intend to use lasers coupled with a high coercivity material to achieve this capacity improvement. The coercivity value of a material is a measure of how difficult it is to magnetize ie how strong the magnetizing field needs to be. A material with low coercivity, is easy to magnetize, but it can also lose its magnetic imprint (north and south domains) easily, especially with densely packed data and is easy to erase with stray magnetic fields and to some extent, physical shock. Conversely a material with a high coercivity value can be damned hard to magnetize, but will keep its magnetic imprint much more stably and crucially for data storage, can retain much smaller magnetic domains, giving rise to greatly increased storage capacity for all that ever increasing avalanche of crucial data, such as music files, dodgy videos and humungous video game installs.

The coercivity value of a material reduces dramatically with heat, especially a lot of it, which can completely demagnetize the material as the atoms vibrate strongly with thermal energy. Therefore, the trick with writing data to high coercivity materials is to heat them first, write the data and then cool them quickly before it’s lost. This is called Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR) and is where TDK’s new laser technology comes in, as it can do this for tiny magnetic domains and using great precision. The catch at the moment, is finding such a suitable high coercivity material to work with the new laser technology, but development is ongoing.

As this technology isn’t ready for prime time, TDK is keeping quiet about the precise details of how it works. Developing new storage technology is very expensive for any one company, therefore hard drive manufacturers club together and belong to the Storage Technology Alliance to pool their resources together. However, when the new technology is ready, we could be looking at the upcoming 4TB drives using 4 platters now, have 8TB capacity, or conversely, the same capacity with half the platters. This explains why almost as soon as one drive manufacturer brings out a new high capacity drive, the others follow in short order, all using the same technology and hopefully without too many patent disputes.

To add a further twist to this story, it looks like HAMR alone won’t be enough to double capacity, so it looks like bit-patterned media (BPM) will be used with it, too. BPM means literally what it says, a predefined physical pattern is etched onto the recording media to assist with recording and retaining data.

So hurrah for mechanical hard drive aficionados, mechanical hard drives are not going to succumb to solid state drives any time soon. Of course, the development that we all want to see, are SSDs with the capacity of hard drives, that don’t have the limited write cycles of current flash memory and don’t write in blocks, but require a page erase cycle which slows them down and complicates things. However, this tech is unfortunately, not even on the horizon. When it does finally arrive, perhaps an artificial mechanical rattle could be added to these for those seeking that nostalgic feel for their PCs?Source: The Register
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25 Comments on R&D: TDK Uses Lasers To Double Hard Disc Capacity, Helping Save HDs From Extinction

#1
[H]@RD5TUFF
I think HD's are far from being extinct, but it was a cool read, thanks for the linkage.
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#3
[H]@RD5TUFF
by: LAN_deRf_HA
I thought some tech that made a 10 fold density increase was announced awhile ago. Anyways SSDs might step it up before then http://techreport.com/discussions.x/21795
I am more interested in the heating of the platters to make data exchange easier between the header and the platter, allowing for higher density and higher rpm's.
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#4
qubit
Overclocked quantum bit
Hey, glad you like it guys. :toast: I already know a bit about magnetism and hard drives, so it came naturally to add my own knowledge to this article, especially the bit on coercivity.

I've edited it to include a link to an article about the formation of the Storage Technology Alliance.
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#5
Thefumigator
I still hear tapes on a walkman. Please bring laser to that! :o
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#7
techtard
by: qwerty_lesh
Magnets yo'
How do they work?!

Screw HDDs, what about holographic storage. They were talking that up a few years ago.
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#8
m4gicfour
Pfft. Just pull up some of Tesla's old monopolar wireless power designs and encode the data into Earth's magnetic field. Should be simple, right?
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#9
qubit
Overclocked quantum bit
by: techtard
How do they work?!

Screw HDDs, what about holographic storage. They were talking that up a few years ago.
Believe it or not, magnetic media can achieve a significantly higher density. Holographic storage was all poised to burst on the scene until they came out with a significant density breakthrough for hard discs. Off the top of my head, I think it was PRML technology and vertical recording that did it.
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#10
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
Seagate was theorizing about using lasers to warm the platter so the density could go higher. Looks like TDK beat them to it.

Seriously though, I can't see HDDs growing in density much longer. They're going to run out of things to try. XD
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#11
Thefumigator
On a complete sidenote, I liked the way HD-burn worked on CDs
You could put 1400MB on a 700MB CDs, or something like that. I think it was sanyo the developers of such technology. but after the DVD came out the thing was forgoten. Still think it's interesting.
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#12
RejZoR
What wonders me more is, how reliable is the TDK's method. Yeah yeah, SSD's are faster, but their reliability is still very questionable. They do brag about massive MTBF, but they usually crap out without any warning. HDD's on the other hand can crap out as well, but they usually start making noises or other symptoms that warn you before shit actually hits the fan. And they are a proven technology that has been used for decades. Classic HDD's are still preferred for long term, reliable high capacity storage imo.
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#14
Steevo
As long as our thirst for higher definition media continues we will need more storage, and for the foreseeable next 5 years magnetic rotating discs are the only way to quench that thirst.

3TB drives for just over a franklin?
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#15
Mussels
Moderprator
This is called Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR)
stop. HAMR time!
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#16
Rowsol
Qubit, you are blowing my mind!!!
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#17
Vincy Boy
I wonder if TDK can help increase the coercivity of my wife. Now that would be a feat. :banghead:
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#18
Drone
like hds were going to extinct
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#20
techtard
by: RejZoR
What wonders me more is, how reliable is the TDK's method. Yeah yeah, SSD's are faster, but their reliability is still very questionable. They do brag about massive MTBF, but they usually crap out without any warning. HDD's on the other hand can crap out as well, but they usually start making noises or other symptoms that warn you before shit actually hits the fan. And they are a proven technology that has been used for decades. Classic HDD's are still preferred for long term, reliable high capacity storage imo.
SSDs are pretty reliable. The problem is that they are releasing new controllers at a very fast pace, and not doing a thorough enough job testing them.

Plus, some of the manufacturers are specifically using the cheapest NAND possible to maximize profit.

You just have to do a little research, and you'll notice there are a few companies that release very reliable and robust SSDs. You just hear more about about the guys who cut corners.
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#21
qubit
Overclocked quantum bit
by: techtard
SSDs are pretty reliable. The problem is that they are releasing new controllers at a very fast pace, and not doing a thorough enough job testing them.

Plus, some of the manufacturers are specifically using the cheapest NAND possible to maximize profit.

You just have to do a little research, and you'll notice there are a few companies that release very reliable and robust SSDs. You just hear more about about the guys who cut corners.
Intel are one of the best, if not the best, I believe.
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#22
Jegergrim
I think the 310 series proved them to cut just as many corners as any other SSD manufacturer currently
Posted on Reply
#23
TheMailMan78
Banstick Dummy
by: m4gicfour
Pfft. Just pull up some of Tesla's old monopolar wireless power designs and encode the data into Earth's magnetic field. Should be simple, right?
Anything that uses the name Tesla and follows up with the words "designs" and "magnetic" is already far more advanced the 99% of the worlds population.......so no, It won't be simple.
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#24
LAN_deRf_HA
by: qubit
Intel are one of the best, if not the best, I believe.
Crucial M4 drives seem pretty bullet proof. And supposedly samsung 470 and 830 series are as well. Seems to be sandforce and specifically OCZ leading the pack on bugs and bad reliability.
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#25
Completely Bonkers
Good original article from The Register made into a great article, rather than just marketing press releases we have been seeing here over the last year. Keep it up qubit! I think everyone appreciates this kind of stuff on TPU :toast:
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