Researchers from Fujitsu say they have developed technology that allows more than 100G bits of data to be stored on one square inch of hard disk space -- a new record that is expected to lead to notebook computer drives with capacities over 100G bytes appearing on the market within the next year.
The new technology, developed at the Fujitsu Laboratories outside of Tokyo, allows 106G bits of data to be stored per square inch -- significantly more than the 27.5G bits and 32.6G bits per square inch recently announced by Seagate Technology and Toshiba respectively.
To achieve the higher recording density, Fujitsu developed a new recording medium consisting of two magnetic layers separated by a thin layer of a nonmagnetic spacer material, in this case the element Ruthenium (Ru). The new design, called SF Media by Fujitsu, allows a recording density three times greater than has been possible until now, said company spokesman Minoru Sekiguchi.
To make use of the new medium, the company also had to develop a better disk drive head capable of writing and reading data in smaller spaces. The data playback level of the head was doubled through the use of a specular GMR (giant magnetoresistive) read head with two active layers (current disk drives have one active layer) and data recording ability was increased by 30 per cent thanks to a higher precision write head, said Sekiguchi.
At around 100G bits per square inch, the technology rivals the "pixie dust" magnetic coating technology that IBM announced in May. IBM said the technology will offer similar densities but is not predicting it will be available commercially until 2003.
Fujitsu, in contrast, said its new technology will begin appearing in commercial products in the first or second quarter of 2002 and that engineers, with the barrier of 100G bits per square inch broken, are now working towards the development of densities of around 300G bits per square inch. The company would not speculate as to when this might be possible, said Sekiguchi.
The development also serves as a shot in the arm for Fujitsu's hard disk drive business. Struggling against competition from larger manufacturers such as Seagate, Maxtor and IBM, the company announced last month that it is withdrawing from the 3.5-inch IDE desktop computer hard disk sector. Instead, the company will concentrate its efforts on 2.5-inch drives for notebook computers and smaller drives for multimedia and portable electronics products -- just the kind of products that need such high density recording technology.
Photograph: The hard disk surface, illustrating the technology