New particle paves way for 20 times denser hard drives

By on August 9, 2013, 8:30 AM

A groundbreaking new particle has been discovered that could potentially be used in extremely dense hard drives. Known as skyrmions, or microscopic twisted magnetic vortices, the particle could prove extremely useful in the future of storage on magnetic hard drives, where traditional drives fast approach a density barrier.

Scientists have known about skyrmions since the 1960s, but a recent discovery has allowed them to create and destroy them at will. The technique involves using a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) and a polarized current to force groups of atoms into knot-like twisted configurations. The skyrmions resist unraveling, and so they can be theoretically used to store zeros (untwisted) or ones (twisted), the key to storing data digitally.

Kristen von Bergmann, a physicist at the University of Hamburg, says that skyrmonic hard disks could hold 20 times more data per unit area than current hard disks, as each skyrmion is only a few nanometers in diameter. This means that instead of having a hard drive with 4 TB of space, in the future a skyrmonic drive of the same size could hold 80 TB.

Unfortunately the technology is in the very early stages, and at the moment it's virtually unusable for data storage. The team at the University of Hamburg only managed to create four skyrmions at a time, with a success rate of around 60%. It was also only possible to control the particles at 4.2 kelvin (the temperature of liquid helium; or -267ºC, -452ºF), which is far too cold for normal computer usage.

Interestingly, the exact mechanism that provides the twisting and untwisting of skyrmions is currently unknown. More research into the particle and what causes the twisting could provide the key for high-density storage in the future.

User Comments: 9

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RenGood08 RenGood08 said:

That seems kind of cool. Man you could do a lot with 80 TB of hard drive space. I think you wouldn't be able to run out of room! What kind of computer would need that kind of space? Government maybe? They need somewhere to dump all the files they have of you out there lol.

And I kinda laughed at University of Hamburg...the child in me is still well and alive lol.

misor misor said:

I thought hdds are a dying breed.

just like physical cds/dvds/blu-rays... only to find out some tech companies are able to write more or stack more data in different layers of a particular medium..

damn you 80tb of prawns.

1 person liked this | MilwaukeeMike said:

And I kinda laughed at University of Hamburg...the child in me is still well and alive lol.

Me too... my wife's grandmother says 'hamburg' instead of hamburger, so for me it's now a joke not a place.

Sounds like a cool idea for a drive, but they can't really create them yet, they have to be stored at -267C, and they can't read or write data to them either. Sounds like they found something tiny that can exist in two states and someone said 'Hey that could be used as a hard drive' without realizing there are a few barriers to work through first.

RenGood08 RenGood08 said:

Yeah. I say, until they get their methods perfected to where a computer could actually operate with it, don't be expecting this on the shelves in the near future. Probably not even within the next couple years. They aren't even sure how it truly works. So progress will probably be slow and steady lol.

hellokitty[hk] hellokitty[hk], I'm a TechSpot Evangelist, said:

4.2K isn't bad.

1 person liked this | JC713 JC713 said:

Now that is some coooool tech (pun intended).

Guest said:

Sound good but was there an article on another storage medium something stackable which worked better not long ago and I more like the idea of the unknown as they dont know why they twist advances like these usually advance other things as might not just be relevant to storage technology, since 1960's known about....hows much more cool things are discovered but overlooked.

Puiu Puiu said:

It will not fly. those temps and percentage of success are way too much and they will not bring them to mass production levels anytime soon (around 50 years maybe but not sooner). Right now the industry is focusing on high capacity SSDs.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

And I kinda laughed at University of Hamburg...the child in me is still well and alive lol.
The nearest town to here is called Hamburg. That kinda kills the joke for me, but I can see where the humor is. Lets just say the joke died out years ago for me.

On topic though, I'd love to have a 80TB drive.

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