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Fig. 3 shows a laser head heating the disc while lubricant vapor bombards the depleted area

Nanotubes stacked in a thin layer to create a lubricant
Up to 10X the capacity of current harddrives can be achieved

Seagate has submitted a patent for a technology it invented that could give current hard drive technology a few more years of life. Using nanotube technology, Seagate plans to bring a hard drive's read and write head even closer to the spinning platter than it already is today. Because of the mechanics of the way hard drives store data, the closer the read and write head is to the patter, the more information can be recorded.

Earlier this year, we started to see hard drives using perpendicular technology make their way into the market. The technology is one of those inventions that changes the fundamental way information is recorded onto disk. Without going into too much background information, perpendicular recording techniques have given new life to hard drives. Despite this however, storage demands continue to increase as consumers find more uses for data-focused consumer electronics such as portable video players, audio players and other mediums.

Using nanotubes, Seagate's patent involves coating the surface of a hard drive's platter with an extremely thin layer of extremely tough lubricant. The lubricant is designed to protect the actual magnetic medium, which in itself ranges from 2 to 50nm in thickness. Using this lubricant, Seagate will lower the read/write head to the point where it actually may come into contact with the platter. Seagate will also be introducing a heating mechanism such as a laser, which will heat up a small area of the platter allowing magnetic particles to be arranged more precisely -- thus allowing greater data densities. The laser itself will be positioned adjacent to the read and write head.

Since the lubricant layer is so thin however, the area that was heated will have some of the lubricant evaporated. To combat this, a reservoir that contains lubricant made of hundreds of thousands to millions of nanotubes is contained within the hard drive. Using precise pressure, the lubricant is evaporated into a vapor, and the vapor then deposits itself onto the area where there was depleted lubricant. According to Seagate, the vapor lubricant will take no more than a single disc rotation to complete the filling processes. The patent also says that hard drives will contain enough nanotube lubricant to last anywhere from 5 to 10 years. From Seagate's patent:

The saturated reservoir 60 of disc lubricant may be placed at any suitable location within the disc enclosure 12. The reservoir 60 delivers a predetermined vapor pressure of lubricant inside the enclosure. Lubricant molecules thereby enter the gas phase and bombard the disc surface with a known rate principally determined by the vapor pressure. A multilayer surface film of lubricant is therefore built up from the gas phase. Equilibrium is then established between the gas phase lubricant molecules and the outermost layer of the formed multilayer surface film.

Although it is unknown when this technology will make it to market, it's evident that scientists are hard at work devising new ways to keep the hard drive going. Using nanotube technology in conjunction with perpendicular recording, we should be able to see hard drives with capacities in the terabytes become common. Seagate suggests that we can see hard drives with 10 times the capacities of today's largest hard drives.

Fujitsu also recently announced a breakthrough in the lubricant layer of its hard drives.  By using an extra thin layer of hard, friction-reduced materials, the magnetic head can get closer to the drive platter.  Thus,  the bits can be smaller and the density of the platter increased.



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RE: Too complicated to be feasible
By patentman on 7/3/2006 9:10:25 AM , Rating: 2
1. There is no such thing as a "fishing patent," and if you think there is, you know nothing about patentlaw.

2. I have met and/or talked to a lot of the people who develop hard drive technology at Seagate, including Dieter Weller. Chances are they either do in fact have a prototype or are close to producing one. This technology might not come out for another five years, but that doesn;t mean it will never make it to market. Hell, 5 years ago I examined and allowed a lot of the patent applications that now protect Seagate's perpendicular recording technology, and that just came out commercially this year.


RE: Too complicated to be feasible
By masher2 (blog) on 7/3/2006 9:39:28 AM , Rating: 2
> "1. There is no such thing as a "fishing patent," and if you think there is, you know nothing about patentlaw."

There most certainly is. As for my knowing about patent law, I have a quite a few myself, both in the US and the EU. Patents are, unfortunately, very regularly granted for ideas that are little beyond the concept stage.


RE: Too complicated to be feasible
By Some1ne on 7/3/2006 4:09:01 PM , Rating: 2
"Patents are, unfortunately, very regularly granted for ideas that are little beyond the concept stage"

How is this "unfortunate"? Patents exist to protect against monopoly, and more specifically to protect small inventors from having their ideas copied by larger firms that can then out-produce the small inventor and both drive them out of business, and get rich off of their idea.

If patents were only granted when an idea had been carried through to the ptototype stage, then you've essentially destroyed this protection, because a small inventor may not initially have the resources to construct a prototype of their idea, and if they cannot patent it given just the concept, then they can't seek venture capital or any other help in developing it, because in doing so they would be exposing their idea to other people with no protection whatsoever, and could very easily be ripped off by anyone with the resources to implement their idea.

If patents were only granted for ideas with a demonstrable implementation, invention would only be practical with the context of a large company, and this is detrimental to innovation, which is why there are patent laws in the first place.


By patentman on 7/5/2006 2:05:41 PM , Rating: 2
"How is this "unfortunate"? Patents exist to protect against monopoly, and more specifically to protect small inventors from having their ideas copied by larger firms that can then out-produce the small inventor and both drive them out of business, and get rich off of their idea."

Patents grant a limited monopoly, so I don't know how they "protect" against monopoly.

"If patents were only granted when an idea had been carried through to the ptototype stage, then you've essentially destroyed this protection, because a small inventor may not initially have the resources to construct a prototype of their idea, and if they cannot patent it given just the concept, then they can't seek venture capital or any other help in developing it, because in doing so they would be exposing their idea to other people with no protection whatsoever, and could very easily be ripped off by anyone with the resources to implement their idea. "

This is true to a large extent. Venture captial is often received once patents are obtained.

"If patents were only granted for ideas with a demonstrable implementation, invention would only be practical with the context of a large company, and this is detrimental to innovation, which is why there are patent laws in the first place."

Yes and no. Patent law is around to encourage invention by everyone, including large firms. Technological development would be greatly reduced if everyone was busy hiding their industrial secrets from others.



By patentman on 7/5/2006 2:01:05 PM , Rating: 2
Well I've never heard the term, and certainly not in the context in which you are providing it. Considering that I've worked as a patent professional in the U.S. for almost 6 years now (including 3 as an examiner at the USPTO in the field of Magnetic Recording media), I will respectfully trust my own judgement and stick to my guns here. Further, the mere fact that you have a few patents to your name doesn't mean that you know squat about patent law.

I'm not going to rant anymore about it on this forum, however, because its like talking to a wall. If anyone wants to learn about the law behind intellectual property feel free to send me a PM on anandtech


By patentman on 7/5/2006 2:02:39 PM , Rating: 2
Patents are never ever granted for ideas, only novel and nonobvious machines, compositions or matter, methods, etc.... ideas are too ephemeral. If ideas were patentable, the laws of physics, algorhythms etc would be patentable as well (by the way, in real life they are not)



By crystal clear on 7/3/2006 10:23:16 AM , Rating: 2
United States Patent Application 20060099461
Kind Code A1
Jones; Paul Max ; et al. May 11, 2006

------------------------------------------------- -------------------------------
Magnetic recording system with continuous lubrication of recording media

Read this patent application for more detailed information
on the relevant site
Abstract
The present invention provides a self lubricating magnetic recording system that delivers lubricant molecules from a gas phase to the surface of recording media at a sufficient rate to cover the exposed media before it can interact with the writing transducer. The environment around the media surface includes lubricant vapor, and when the lubricant film is removed from the disc surface, e.g., upon heating of the medium, it is replaced by adsorption from the surrounding vapor. The lubricant is thus replenished by delivering lubricant from the vapor phase.

Read the above patent application on the relevant site.
Good reading.


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