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
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.