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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: Lifespan
By masher2 on 7/3/2006 12:04:09 PM , Rating: 2
> "Apparently you all keep forgetting that the lifespan of the lubricant will depend on how much you use your HDD"

Not neccesarily. After all, remember the lubricant is continually being refreshed through the action of the drive itself. The lifespan is probably limited not by usage, but by losses due to osmotic seepage during the gas phase. And that could possibly be a constant factor, regardless of usage.

RE: Lifespan
By dgingeri on 7/3/2006 1:03:25 PM , Rating: 3
likely the lubricant lifetime would depend on the altitude of the usage, where it would last longer in Chicago than Denver.

A drive may last 10 years in Chicago (at sea level, or very near) while it will last 7 in Denver (a mile or more in altitude) and 5 years in Lima (even higher than Denver, but I don't know how much).

They also mention that the lubricant evaporates, not degrades. therefore, it would just add to the vapor pressure of the existing and be redeposited elsewhere in a later phase. not really a problem.

The problem I see is that we don't really know what widespread exposure to nano particles would do to a person. it could cause cancer like asbestos or something. It might become a hazard later on where 'old' computers would have to be disposed of in a special manner in order to keep the nano particles contained, like lead based paint and asbestos is dealt with today, but much more dangerous since nano particles can penetrate plastic containers easily, and cannot be filtered out at all. Seagate is going to have to be extremely careful with this or they might be responsible for too much more than it would be worth to them.

While this is a laudable achievement, it needs to be watched carefully.

RE: Lifespan
By Squidward on 7/3/2006 4:38:35 PM , Rating: 2
...totally off topic but the last two replies knocked down my geek status to depressingly low levels.

"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007
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