In the hard disk, the data is recorded on fast-rotating metal plates, and reading and writing is done by a moving magnetic head. Special layers of carbon-based coating protect these plates from mechanical damage and corrosion during operation. However, they can only operate in a certain temperature range. Researchers in Cambridge have succeeded in replacing the coating used in commercial hard drives with several layers of graphene (one to four) – a material that is formed from a single layer of carbon atoms. It has great strength and flexibility, among other highly valued properties.
Using the impressive “supermaterial” graphene, a team of scientists at the University of Cambridge has made progress in data storage that looks more like a leap than a step forward. The new design allows for higher operating temperatures for hard disks (HDDs) while providing unprecedented data density. This, according to the team, is a tenfold increase over current technology. The thinness of the graphene layer allows for significant space savings, but also exceeds the parameters of the current type of coating in terms of protection against mechanical wear. It reduces corrosion 2.5 times and offers a twofold reduction in friction.
But most promising is that the inclusion of graphene layers increases the operating temperature at which the hard drive is able to operate. This is because the application of graphene allows the team to use an advanced writing technology called Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR), which heats the recording layer to higher temperatures and allows data bits to be far smaller and more tightly packed while remaining stable. HAMR technology is incompatible with the current type of coating, but graphene can absorb heat without any problems. The combination of this property and space saving has led to the fact that – according to scientists – there is an unprecedented data density of 10 terabytes per square inch. This is a tenfold increase over today’s decisions.
“Demonstrating that graphene can serve as a protective coating for conventional hard drives and that it is able to withstand HAMR, we can say that this is a very important result,” says Dr. Anna Ott, one of the co-authors of the new study at the Cambridge Graphene Center. “This will further support the development of new high-density hard drives.”
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