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Data Storage Shark Hardware Science

New Technique Promises Much Faster Hard Drive Write Speeds 148

MrSeb writes "Hold onto your hats: Scientists at the University of York, England have completely rewritten the rules of magnetic storage (abstract; full paper paywalled). Instead of switching a magnetic region using a magnetic field (like a hard drive head), the researchers have managed to switch a ferrimagnetic nanoisland using a 60-femtosecond laser. Storing magnetic data using lasers is up to 1,000 times faster than writing to a conventional hard drive (we're talking about gigabytes or terabytes per second) — and the ferrimagnetic nanoislands that store the data are capable of storage densities that are some 15 times greater than existing hard drive platters. Unfortunately the York scientists only detailed writing data with lasers; there's no word on how to read it."
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New Technique Promises Much Faster Hard Drive Write Speeds

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @10:41AM (#38966417)

    If they can't read it, how do they know if they actually wrote it? Or maybe reading it is 10,000 times slower than current read technology.

  • by Synon ( 847155 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @11:14AM (#38966895) Homepage
    "Unfortunately the York scientists only detailed writing data with lasers; there's no word on how to read it." A bit of a paradox don't you think? How did they know it was written without being able to read it?
  • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @11:46AM (#38967319)

    This solves a major problem with mag recording. Readback head have always been way smaller than write head. You can read back with just a tiny permalloy head but to write you need large currents and loops of wire. So miniaturization has been limited by the write head size not the read head. This solves the write-head size problem but may have created a new read head problem. But that's very promising.

  • by tibit ( 1762298 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:07PM (#38967637)

    It's time to dust off the old concept of hard sectored discs ;) Realistically, of course, it's a bit more complex than that.

    First of all, modern hard drives have a servo track that's used to maintain radial position of the head servo. Instead of each hard drive having a very accurate (and expensive) radial and axial head position sensor, you pay for it once, install it in the factory, use it to accurately guide a hard drive to write the servo track. Its cost is amortized over thousands of drives made. This is probably the reason for a covered up radial slot in many hard drive enclosures: I guess it's used for the sensor to couple with the head system while the drive writes the servo track. Or perhaps the servo platter is prewritten outside the disc? Someone familiar with how it's made please chip in!

    The servo track can be also used to provide angular position feedback. A rough estimate of angular position of the spindle is available first from the Hall sensors in the spindle motor. A somewhat more accurate estimate can be had from back-EMF from the spindle motor windings. This still is methinks a couple orders of magnitude away from what's needed to pack sectors tightly on the drive -- thus the feedback can come from the servo track. Not having to read the data tracks helps with packing the sectors: there's no read-write switchover overhead (if it were significant -- perhaps it isn't nowadays). The servo head is always reading, and the data heads can be kept in write/erase standby. It'd be nondestructive, but read amplifiers are disconnected to prevent saturating them -- amplifier overload recovery is slow. Heck, if you want an amp that recovers from overloads quickly, you have to split it into more stages, and you need fast clamps between each stage. There are other similar approaches to this problem, too, and perhaps modern read amps are designed to deal with overloads gracefully -- I never tested a recent one. Stuff from a decade ago was painfully slow on overloads (tried to reuse a head amp from a hard drive for a non-drive-related project).

    Alas, this ultra-fast-writing drive would unfortunately need very accurate position sensors -- both angular and radial. It's an engineering issue to make those affordable, as is the design of the optochip with femtosecond laser and its driver and serializer. The latter would probably take a couple serial lanes and multiplex them -- I presume it's not all that easy to push 10gbit/s data between external chips and the laser driver/laser combo. I think that to make it all practical you need an on-chip serializer, write precompensation, driver, and the diode. Perhaps the diode would be "tacked on" later to a substrate that has everything else. I only imagine that bond wire parasitics, even over a couple mm, become kinda important when the laser waveform has a 100GHz bandwidth...

FORTRAN is the language of Powerful Computers. -- Steven Feiner