Lab experiments show laser hard drives 100x faster than conventional technology

When it comes to computer technology, hard drives have advanced the slowest over the years are far as speed is concerned. We've seen dramatic increases in processing speed and graphics power, but HDDs have long been the bottleneck in modern systems.

Many are looking to solid state disks (SSDs) to give a boost in speed. In addition, SSDs have the advantage of lighter weight, more efficient packaging, silent operation, durability and power efficiency.

The major drawback, however, is pricing. Current 1.8" SSDs are roughly five times as expensive as their 1.8" HDD counterparts. Analysts expect the difference to only drop to three times as expensive by 2010.

With this in mind, researchers are looking to other alternatives to traditional HDD technology. Researchers at Radboud University Nijmegen are using lasers to write data to HDDs. Each laser pulse is capable of heating up a portion of the magnetic disk (made up of cobalt, gadolinium and iron) to change its polarity. By doing this, 1's and 0's can be recorded at rapid speeds.

Researchers claim that the use of lasers makes the drive 100 times faster than conventional hard drives.

"This is one of the most exciting stories in magnetics," remarked Julius Hohlfeld of Seagate Research. While current laboratory experiments have been successful, a working prototype isn't expected for another 5+ years.

"We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs

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