Hitachi recently announced that it has achieved a breakthrough in hard drive read-head design.
This breakthrough has produced read-heads in the 30-50 nanometer range, approximately 2,000 times smaller than the width of an average human hair. This new technology is called current perpendicular-to-the-plane giant magnetoresistive heads.
Giant magnetoresistance principles won scientists Albert Fert and Peter Grunberg the 2007 Nobel Prize for Physics.
These new heads will allow Hitachi to expand storage capacity in standard 3.5-inch desktop hard drives to 4TB and extend 2.5-inch laptop hard drives to 1TB of capacity. Hitachi says that it plans to integrate these new heads into hard drives starting in 2009 and that the technology will reach maturity in 2011.
The first products to reach market in 2009 will use recording heads of 50nm and products with recording heads of 30nm will hit market in 2011. Hitachi representatives believe the new heads will allow for storage densities of up to 500GB per square inch. The current highest capacity drives from Hitachi can only pack in 200GB per square inch.
Another benefit of the significantly smaller heads is that the hard drives will product less noise. Test products using 50nm heads produced 40dB of sound while the 30nm heads produced 30dB. Large capacity hard drives that produce less noise will be a welcome addition to digital video recorders.