Researchers Use Table Salt To Increase Hard Drive Density Six-Fold

Brad Chacos

Think the 4TB hard drives hitting the market now are impressive? You’re right. But one group of researchers say that’s nothing compared to the storage capacities that could be unlocked using a new technique they’ve discovered. Dr Joel Yang and his team from the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering in Singapore claim that simply by adding table salt to an existing lithographic process, they have come up with a way of increasing the information density of HDDs six-fold. Basically, 6TB of info could fit onto today's 1TB platters.

Yang and his team use “an extremely high-resolution e-beam lithography process that produces super fine nano-sized structures” to create the high-density disks, the Institute’s press release (PDF) says. The addition of sodium chloride to an existing, unnamed lithographic solution lets the crew “produce highly defined nanostructures down to 4.5 nm half pitch” – without an equipment upgrade.

That precision allows the team to arrange the nanoscopic magnetic grains on the disks in a tightly-packed pattern, as opposed to the random splattering of grains found on standard HDDs. Whereas standard HDDs have an information density of around 0.5 terabits/sq. in., Yang’s refined process has created disks with densities up to 3.3 terabits/sq. in. However, the number is a bit deceiving; while 3.3 terabit/sq. in. disks have been fabricated, the crew has “only” demonstrated data-storage capabilities in disks with 1.9 terabits/sq. in.

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