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Nanoimprint for HDDs still under wraps

Posted: 04 Mar 2010     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:nanoimprint  HDD  lithography  extreme ultraviolet 

HDDs running out of gas?
MII and others are also looking other markets, such as disk drives, LEDs, optical and even solar. HDD is perhaps the market that will finally propel nanoimprint from its R&D niche into a volume business.

HDD makers are interested in the technology. Using today's perpendicular recording, drive makers are now shipping units that pack 530Gbpsquare inch or more. The technology could hit a wall in about two more product generations when products hit about 800Gbpsquare inch. Some say the industry may have to choose within the next year one of the contending approaches to get to 1Tbpsquare inch and beyond.

Several types of new technologies, including patterned media or heat-assisted recording, are being proposed that could deliver densities of 1- to 10Tbpsquare inch. Microwave-assisted magnetic recording is yet another technique.

Seagate Technology has been championing an approach called heat-assisted magnetic recording that uses a tiny laser light on each drive head to heat a portion of the disk just before a write operation. Rival HGST is working on a way to pattern tracks and even bit locations on media.

All sides say they are actively exploring both technologies. Ultimately both technologies will be needed to deliver disks that pack 10Tbit or more per square inch.

Compared to the other new technologies, patterned media requires several new process steps and new equipment—such as nanoimprint lithography. Taking on those capital costs and estimating the yields for such new equipment is a daunting challenge.

To bring down those costs, MII recently rolled out the NuTera HD7000—its next-generation nanoimprint lithography tool for the HDD industry. Targeted for patterned media pilot- and volume-manufacturing, the NuTera HD7000 enables sub-20nm lithography and offers a throughput of more than 300 double-sided disks per hour.

Featuring the company's enhanced IntelliJet drop pattern technology, the NuTera HD7000 dispenses picoliter-sized resist droplets, which enable improved residual layer thickness uniformity for pattern fidelity, resulting in higher disk yields. MII has just shipped its first system to an unidentified company.

Another tool vendor, Obducat, is pushing the so-called Sindre tool for bit-pattered media production. Rival Nanonex has dropped hints about its new nanoimprint tool, dubbed the NX-4000, which is reportedly geared for the HDD market.

"The industry is at present considering the introduction of a generation of hard disks with increased memory capacity, so-called 'shingled write recording.' This would enable the HDD industry to continue to make progress directly towards 'bit-patterned media' (BPM). The introduction of BPM based production is expected to take place in 2012 at the earliest," according to a statement from Obducat.

Despite the apparent delays, drive makers are still looking at bit-patterned media—and for good reason. Current drives are beginning to hit the "proverbial brick wall" at 1Tbyte, said HGST's Albrecht.

One issue, dubbed the superparamagnetic effect, "poses a serious challenge for continuing to increase the density and storage capacity of disk drives. One of the most promising methods to circumvent the density limitations imposed by this effect is the use of patterned media," according to HGST Website.

"In conventional media, the magnetic recording layer is a thin film of a magnetic alloy, which naturally forms a random mosaic of nanometer-scale grains which behave as independent magnetic elements. Each recorded bit is made up of many of these random grains. In patterned media, the magnetic layer is created as an ordered array of highly uniform islands, each island capable of storing an individual bit," according to Hitachi.

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