Magnetic recording method could speed up hard drives

A new method of magnetic recording could allow computers to process information at hundreds of times the speed of current hard drives.

Researchers from York University were part of an international team that found it could record information using only heat instead of a magnetic medium, something previously thought impossible that could also make computers more energy efficient.

York physicist Thomas Ostler said: ‘Instead of using a magnetic field to record information on a magnetic medium, we harnessed much stronger internal forces and recorded information using only heat.

‘This revolutionary method allows the recording of terabytes — thousands of gigabytes — of information per second, hundreds of times faster than present hard-drive technology. As there is no need for a magnetic field, there is also less energy consumption.’

Dr Alexey Kimel, from the Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, said: ‘For centuries it has been believed that heat can only destroy the magnetic order.

‘Now we have successfully demonstrated that it can, in fact, be a sufficient stimulus for recording information on a magnetic medium.’

Conventional magnetic recording technology works by applying an external magnetic field to the recording medium to invert the direction of its magnetic poles, with stronger fields producing faster recording.

However, the researchers demonstrated that the positions of the magnetic poles can be inverted by an ultrashort heat pulse, harnessing the power of much stronger internal forces of magnetic media.

The multinational team of scientists included researchers from Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, Russia, Japan and the Netherlands. Its work is published in the February edition of Nature Communications.