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Seagate Technology on Thursday is presenting research findings pointing toward data storage densities of 50 terabits per square inch or more at the American Physical Society (APS) conference. The move could eventually enable astonishingly large storage products.

At 50 terabits (Tb) per square inch densities, over 3.5 million high-resolution photos, 2800 audio CDs, 1600 hours of television, or the entire printed collection of the US Library of Congress could be stored onto recording media about the size of a single coin, such as a half dollar (30.61mm). Seagate’s research team is currently developing the technology, called Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR), which is expected to enable these ultra-high storage densities.

With areal density of 6.25TB (Terrabyte) per square inch, 3.5” typical platter would be able to hold up about 49TB of data on one side. Two sides of such platter would handle about 98TB of information. Usually HDDs have from one to five platters inside, the maximum storage capabilities of upcoming HDDs would be up to 490TB, or approximately 0.5 of Petabyte. However, Seagate storage capacity may be limited by about 200TB, as the company does not use more than 2 platters in its HDDs today.

Nowadays platters have areal density of up to 70Gb per square inch. The world’s largest HDD can hold up to 400GB of data.

HAMR technology will significantly extend the capacity of modern magnetic disc drives that use magnetic heads to read and write digital data onto spinning platters. HAMR achieves higher densities by using a laser-beam or other energy source to heat the recording medium at the same time that data bits are being recorded. HAMR technology will also achieve its high areal densities at a cost structure on pace with the hard disc drives of today, making it a key enabling storage technology that will allow the adoption of mass storage to continue to enter emerging markets.

Seagate’s Research division has worked on HAMR technology in addition to other promising storage technologies since its research center was first founded in 1998. Seagate estimates that HAMR technology will be used in disc drive devices initially at 1Tb (terabit) per square inch densities, with a time to market of approximately 2010.

Dr. Terry McDaniel, Seagate recording physicist and APS member, will give the presentation entitled, “Ultimate Limits to Thermally Assisted Magnetic Recording.” The presentation is part of the American Physical Society session V6 series, “Ultimate Limits to Data Storage.” This work was performed as part of the Information Storage Industry Consortium (INSIC) program in Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording, with the support of the US Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology.

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