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Ion beam could increase storage density

Posted: 16 Jan 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:storage density  data storage  ion beams  magnetic 

In order to increase the storage density on computer disks, researchers might have to rethink magnetic data storage concepts. While in the past, the focus was on optimising the materials for storage, a group of Spanish and German researchers now has found a different approach that could help to increase storage density by an order of magnitude.

Researchers from Forschungszentrum Rossendorf, the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona and other research institutions in Switzerland, Sweden and the USA succeeded in generating very small magnetic zones in a material by irradiating the surface with highly focused ion beams. The irradiated domains exposed magnetic properties; since the beam can be extremely focused, the method can generate magnetic domains as small as 5 to 10nm, explained Juergen Fassbender from Forschungszentrum Rossendorf.

In contrast to today's fixed disks which typically use Cobalt-Chrome-Platinum plated glass platters, the researchers used a FeAl alloy for their trials. If the method would be used in industrial manufacturing processes, the material would have to be built up on such a platter as well, but this was not (yet) the subject of the trials, Fassbender said. Instead, the researchers were interested in demonstrating a proof of principles.

The results allow for the conclusion that the technique would enable manufacturers to tenfold the magnetic density if successfully adapted to industrial processes. In addition, the signal/noise ratio would be improved drastically. The s/n ratio has deteriorated constantly over the past generations of magnetic storage since the magnetic particles have been shrunk which led to weaker signals. This won't be the case with the alloy approach, Fassbender said.

However, there are some challenges on the road to industrial application. One of the largest stumbling blocks is that the researchers for their trials could apply serial writing of the magnetic 'dots' on the material surface. This won't be possible in mass-production since it is much too slow. A solution could be parallel writing by means of masks, similar to the lithography photomasks in today's chip production. Since today's state of lithography technology allows for writing structures in the range of about 30nm, there would still be headroom to further increase the density of magnetic storage devices made using the new method.

-Christoph Hammerschmidt
EE Times Europe

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