July 5, 2007 8:08 AM PDT

Laser innovation speeds up hard disks

Laser innovation speeds up hard disks
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Researchers in the Netherlands say they have come up with a way of using lasers to speed up magnetic hard drives by a factor of 100.

A paper published by Daniel Stanciu of the Institute for Molecules and Materials at Radboud University Nijmegen describes a method of using ultrarapid pulses of polarized light to heat up areas on a hard disk and, crucially, using the same light to change the polarity of those areas. The polarity of the disk storage medium is reversed by reversing the polarity of the laser pulses, according to a report in Science.

Stanciu was not available for comment, but in the abstract accepted for publication by the Physical Review Letters, he wrote, "We experimentally demonstrate that the magnetization can be reversed in a reproducible manner by a single 40-femtosecond circularly polarized laser pulse, without any applied magnetic field."

This optically induced, ultrafast magnetization reversal, he says, was previously believed impossible, and it is the combined result of femtosecond laser heating of the magnetic system to just below the Curie point, and circularly polarized light simultaneously acting as a magnetic field.

Similar effects have previously been used in magneto-optical storage devices, but those used a magnetic field applied by conventional means, not by the laser.

According to Science, Stanciu expects to see a working prototype within a decade.

Matt Loney of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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7 comments

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Prototype within a decade?
In a decade, most hard drives are going to be solid state...so why even bother?
Posted by TheyCallMeGeorge (39 comments )
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Next out...
...vinyl LPs for music storage.
Posted by ewelch (767 comments )
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Conventional wisdom
Certainly the idea that hard drives will be replaced by solid state
technology (such as Flash) is the conventional wisdom. I'm not
sure I really believe that the hard disk will die out completely
though.

Why? Well, because it looks like it will continue to offer larger
capacities than similar-sized Flash or RAM memories. Even
consumer machines continue to require more storage space,
partly as a result of the increase in the size of the data sets used
by modern computer games, so while I'm certain Flash will take
over in laptops, the future of desktops and server systems is
somewhat less certain, at least in the short to medium term.
Posted by ajhoughton (133 comments )
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How the heck
do they read the data?
Posted by FuturDreamz (28 comments )
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Similar to MO
This is an advancement on magneto-optical (MO) technology. The
main difference being that this method flips the magnetic domains
with a laser rather than using the laser only for heating and reading
and a magnetic write head for flipping as MO does. This should be
much faster than MO with the same resistence to stray magnetic
fields.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magneto-optical" target="_newWindow">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magneto-optical</a>
Posted by calcompcare (8 comments )
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