Researchers using salt to increase hard drive capacity

By on October 17, 2011, 12:45 PM

Researchers in Singapore have discovered a way to increase hard drive capacity by as much as six times the current limit using sodium chloride, otherwise known as table salt. Joel Yang from Singapore’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) is credited with the finding.

Wired.co.uk describes the process of how a current hard drive works. The spinning magnetic platters are covered with randomly dispersed nanoscopic grains that work in clumps of 10 to form one bit. Yang’s idea is to get rid of the random clumps and instead make slightly larger grains in a regular pattern that each store one bit.

"It's like packing your clothes in your suitcase when you travel," a spokesperson for IMRE said. "The neater you pack them the more you can carry."

Yang discovered that when he added sodium chloride to the developer solution, he could produce nanostructures with a much higher resolution. These nanostructures are produced by an e-beam lithography process on the platter.

The higher resolution structures allow for much more data to be stored per square inch. A typical current-generation hard drive can hold up to 500GB of data per square inch. This new method has been demoed at 1.9TB per square inch. Moving forward, capacities of up to 3.3TB per square inch are possible.

The discovery could be significant but one must wonder if it will have much relevance as flash memory slowly overtakes the storage industry. Solid state drives are significantly faster than traditional spinning hard drives but capacity and pricing still remain an issue for most.

Image via Vitaly Korovin / Shutterstock.




User Comments: 18

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ramonsterns said:

Aha, just what I always wanted. Now if I ever get lost on a remote island in the middle of the ocean, I can eat hard drives for sustenance!

On a more serious note, I was thinking of buying an external hard drive just for emergencies, but I think I'll hold out a bit longer and see where this goes.

tehbanz tehbanz said:

ramonsterns said:

Aha, just what I always wanted. Now if I ever get lost on a remote island in the middle of the ocean, I can eat hard drives for sustenance!

It makes you wonder if you'd lick a platter if it would taste salty.

Guest said:

"Researchers in Singapore have discovered a way to increase hard drive capacity by as much as six times the current limit using sodium chloride, otherwise known as table salt."

So for future notice when your system crashes grab your hard drive with your right hand and throw it over your left shoulder.

Kibaruk Kibaruk, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Of course this is relevant! When they get a 1tb SSD that is sub$200 hell to HDD.

So far and for many (At least more than a couple) years to come HDD are here to stay.

Win7Dev said:

Think about this though, wouldn't you like to have an 18tb hdd for less than $200? That's a hell of a lot a data even in today's world. Someone could probably come up with an internal raid-like architechture that allows data to be put on each disk four times (or any given number) for faster search speeds because it would be able to find any one of the four instead of having to find a certain place.

Xclusiveitalian Xclusiveitalian said:

Now even our hardware will contain salt!

Guest said:

If you get stuck on an island in the middle of an ocean the last thing you will want will be salt!

ramonsterns said:

Guest said:

If you get stuck on an island in the middle of an ocean the last thing you will want will be salt!

What about silicon?

Guest said:

It is certainly relevant, because as you increase the density of the data you increase the speed of the hard drive.

If you clump 2 TB of data per square inch rather than .5 TB per square inch, the hard drive needle wouldn't have to move around as much to reach the data you are trying to access.

That could potentially make hard drives employing that kind of density faster than current flash drives.

treeski treeski said:

...spinning magnetic platters are covered with randomly dispersed nanoscopic grains...

Just curious here, but grains of what?

LinkedKube LinkedKube, TechSpot Project Baby, said:

Win7Dev said:

Think about this though, wouldn't you like to have an 18tb hdd for less than $200? That's a hell of a lot a data even in today's world. Someone could probably come up with an internal raid-like architechture that allows data to be put on each disk four times (or any given number) for faster search speeds because it would be able to find any one of the four instead of having to find a certain place.

raid 0?

soliozuz said:

what happens if water condenses on the hdd when u shut it down?

Guest said:

ocean already contains lots of salt lol

Guest said:

You know, instead of trying to really increase hard drive capacity, because who is going to really need multi TBs of storage but if you do need all that, get another HD or an external one,( one big HD would be hard to back up and it would really be bad if it went out, I would rather have a bunch of drives than one BIG one) but I would really like to see is more ways to increase memory. Imagine a couple TB of RAM!!!

ramonsterns said:

Guest said:

You know, instead of trying to really increase hard drive capacity, because who is going to really need multi TBs of storage but if you do need all that, get another HD or an external one,( one big HD would be hard to back up and it would really be bad if it went out, I would rather have a bunch of drives than one BIG one) but I would really like to see is more ways to increase memory. Imagine a couple TB of RAM!!!

I think the point here is that the money:memory ratio may increase.

Guest said:

I think the point is that hard drives can be made smaller...

MrAnderson said:

I'm curious about data durability as these things go forward. What then becomes the life expectancy for these drives with these new materials?

Guest said:

there will always be a demand for HDD storage and this cant be fulfilled by flash drives. Today we r living with 1080p videos which consume TB and TB's of storage space. Tomorrow there will be 4k and 8k videos each video consuming TB of data to store. What will do that time? NO doubt that we will and will always require higher capacity storage device around us to fullfil those demands. I am gonna buy many more HDD for this. No one will buy more than 1flash drive for use but ppl will and alwyas buy more than one HDD for storage.

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