IBM pixie dust breakthrough quadruples disk drive density

IBM is using a few atoms of ‘pixie dust’ to push back the data storage industry’s most formidable barrier.

The company is first to mass-produce computer hard disk drives using a new type of magnetic coating that is expected to quadruple the data density of current hard disk drive products – a level previously thought impossible.

The key to IBM’s new data storage breakthrough is a three-atom-thick layer of the element ruthenium, a precious metal similar to platinum, sandwiched between two magnetic layers. That only a few atoms could have such a dramatic impact caused some IBM scientists to refer to the ruthenium layer informally as ‘pixie dust.’

Known technically as ‘antiferromagnetically-coupled (AFC) media,’ the new multilayer coating is expected to permit hard-disk drives to store 100 billion bits (Gbits) of data per square inch of disk area by 2003. AFC media is being shipped in IBM’s Travelstar notebook hard disk drive products with data densities up to 25.7 gigabits per square inch.

IBM plans to implement AFC media across all its disk drive product lines.

With AFC media, 100-Gbit data density could allow for 400 GByte drives in desktop drives and 200 Gbyte drives in notebooks.

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