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IBM 120 GXP 60 GB desktop IDE drive, circa 2002.

Table Salt Multiplies Hard Disk Space six Times

IBM 120 GXP 60 GB desktop IDE drive, circa 2002.
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"Table Salt Multiplies Hard Disk Space six Times"
Caption: IBM 120 GXP 60 GB desktop IDE drive, circa 2002.
Image by: Dave Indech
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After several decades spent working with exotic materials in an effort to boost hard disk space, Chinese scientists in Singapore made a jaw-dropping discovery: common table salt can multiply hard disk space up to six times.

Common sodium chloride to the rescue

As demand for computing storage space continues to escalate common sodium chloride can be used in a new manufacturing method that significantly increases the existing capacity of hard drives. It helps solve a problem that manufacturers have been wrestling with for several years as they move towards the limits of storage kept in a relatively compact space.

The team at Singapore's Agency for Science Technology, Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) worked with the National University of Singapore and the Data Storage Institute to develop the revolutionary process. According to a joint press release, they succeeded in developing "a process that can increase the data recording density of hard disks to 3.3 Terabits per square inch, six times the recording density of current models."

When the scientists added sodium chloride as part of hard disk manufacturing it permitted the distribution of bit information to line up in a more compact, orderly fashion. That simple step allowed much more information to be squeezed onto the disk allowing a big jump in storage capacity.

Dr. Joel Yang, the lead scientist of the research team, also noted that the salt improved the performance of the electron beam used to place the bits on the surface of the disk. "It can give you a very high contrast. We are now able to see fine lines that would normally be blurred out," he explained. "Otherwise you can try your best to pattern these bits very closely but they will all end up being gigantic blurred out blobs.”

The benefit of the new process was outlined by IMRE in a widely distributed press release: "Conventional hard disks 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/in2 of information. The IMRE-led team used the bit-patterned media approach, where magnetic islands are patterned in a regular fashion, with each single island able to store one bit of information."

Commercialization seen by 2016

As the need for increased storage space grows every year, Yang sees the newly developed manufacturing method being made available commercially. Manufacturers of hard disks can ass the sodium chloride as part of the process without much impact on the price of the final product.

Yang said that "when the current techniques run out of fuel and (the manufacturers of hard drives) need to find alternate methods" to expand storage table salt will be the answer.

More about this author: Terrence Aym

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