Hard drives keep adding more and more platters, but there will come a time when no more platters will stack, and no more data can be squished onto our standard 3.5″ drives. While many people are moving to flash storage, at least for their system drives, you simply can’t beat the economy of the physical hard drive.
Now, with the discovery of a formerly theoretical particle, we can pack 20 times the data into the same space that’s starting to get seriously crowded today. This comes via Nature:
Scientists have finally created a long-theorized particle called the skyrmion. The best way to imagine a skyrmion is to think of a magnetic field that resembles a twisted vortex of atoms. In a normal particle, the charges of the atoms all line up in the same direction, but in a skyrmion, they’re arranged in these little twister shapes that also happen to be quite stable. You can move them around and shake them up, but they won’t come untwisted.
This is where they come in handy for data storage. Information is burned onto a hard disk by turning the magnetic north poles of normal clusters of atoms up or down to denote a “one” or a “zero,” a digital bit. But if you push these particles too closely together, the magnetic fields begin to interfere with each other and scramble the data. This doesn’t happen with skyrmions. Because of that unique vortex shape, you can squeeze the particles super close together, and the magnetic state of each bit will remain stable.
It’s going to be years before we see one of these drives, maybe even a decade, but at least we now know there’s a good future in the mechanical drive for years to come.
Still, though, the most interesting increase in storage capacity recently comes from the solid state arena. Crossbar has recently introduced a new RRAM (resistive RAM) technology that will hold one terabyte of data on a single 200mm2 chip, using 20 times less power than the NAND memory currently used in solid state hard drives, with ten times the durability and write speeds that are 20 times faster. And according to Geekbeat.tv, it isn’t far from market:
Best of all, this may be a technology not far from our consumer devices. Crossbar announced that they have developed a working RRAM array at a commercial fab, meaning this is fairly well along the development path.