Table salt used to enhance hard-disk storage

Team of Singapore scientists develops process that can increase data recording density six times the current limit using sodium chloride and enhanced patterning method.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Local scientists have discovered a way to increase the amount of data stored on hard disks by up to six times the current capacity using sodium chloride, the chemical grade of regular table salt, and nanopatterning.

According to a Friday press release by the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE), conventional hard-disk drives have randomly distributed nanoscopic magnetic grains--with a few tens of grains used to form one bit--that enable the latest hard-disk models to hold up to 0.5 terabit per square inch (terabit/in2) of information. IMRE is an entity under Singapore's Agency of Science, Technology and Research (A*Star).

With the new nanopatterning process developed by the team led by IMRE scientist Joel Yang, hard disks can now potentially store up to 3.3 terabit/in2 of information, it stated. In other words, a 1-terabyte (TB) hard drive could hold up to 6TB of data in the future with this new technology.

This increase in storage capability is made possible by the use of an extremely high-resolution e-beam lithography process that produces super fine nano-sized structures, the release explained. Yang had discovered that by adding sodium chloride to a developer solution used in existing lithography processes, he was able to produce highly defined nanostructures without the need for expensive equipment upgrades.

"What we have shown is that bits can be patterned more densely together by reducing the number of processing steps," said Yang, likening nanopatterning to packing one's travel suitcase neater to allow more clothes to be squeezed into the defined space.

Yang, together with research teams from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and A*Star, is now looking to increase the storage density further, IMRE said.

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