back to article Laser boffins blast bits onto hard drive at 200Gb/sec

A team of scientists have published a new way of using heat to store data magnetically, which could increase the speed of hard drives over a hundredfold. Conventional drives use electromagnetism to selectively change the polarity of points on a drive, representing a one or a zero. But according to research published in Nature …


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  1. jubtastic1

    And the read speed?

    Does that get a boost as well or are we looking at drives that write 100 times faster than they read?

    1. Luther Blissett

      And the access time?


  2. Kai Lockwood

    LaserDisc Vindicated

    Will it play my copy of 'Tron"?

    1. Robert E A Harvey

      I was thinking of the Domesday disks...

  3. Steven Roper

    Yeah, yeah

    yet another pie-in-the-sky 1000-times-more-this-n-that storage solution that will never materialise, while we're STILL stuck using the same old magnetic-spinny-disk tech we were using 25 years ago. The only alternative now is SSDs, which may be heaps faster but die after 6 months of use.

    This? I'll believe it when I see it at my local IT store, like all^H^H^Hnone of the other oh-so-amazing storage inventions that never made it there.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Modern technology William!

      SSDs are relatively new technology compared to the 'spinning disk' variety that has been around for decades. Your cynicism would have us dismissing the Wright brothers with the line " What use is that, it only flew for 12 seconds",

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        did the Wright Brothers

        use hard drives?

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Yeah. They crashed.

          1. magnetik

            That'd be hard dives then ..

      2. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Thing is...

        Airplane tech, like car tech and current drive tech, reached the point of *commercial viability*. That's what we're asking: show us some new drive tech that is actually about to hit the market.

    2. Paul Durrant

      Yeah, really...

      If not this tech, then another. You just don't know what's happened and is still happening in computer storage.

      25 years age (1987) a big 3.5" hard disk was 40MB. Now a big 3.5" hard disk 2TB.

      No, not a 1,000 times increase. More like 50,000!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @SSDs...die after 6 months of use

      tell that to my SSD systems, two years on and no sign of any problems. Silent, superfast, what's your problem?

    4. Ru

      "stuck using the same old magnetic-spinny-disk tech"

      Oh noes! We're still using a technology that gets cheaper and faster and more achieves a higher storage density every year! Whatever is the world coming to? In other news, I drive a diesel. Did you know that the first diesel was demonstrated nearly 120 years ago? And yet the same principles are still perfectly sound, and it remains quite economical and efficient.

      New tech will roll in when the old is no longer up to the task. No point bringing it in before then, is there?

    5. Pl0ns1971

      Life span..

      Just exmaple : OCZ VERTEX 3 SATA III 2.5" SSD 240GB life span is 2 Milion hours.

      2 000 000h / 24h = 83333 days / 365days = 228 YEARS

      With a normal filled SSD and very heavy writing/usage of say 10GB data each day 365 days a year you'd be looking at roughly 22 full SSD write cycles per year, out of the 3000 (worst case scenario) available.

      Worst scenario then : 3000 / 22per year = 136 Years !

      So in the worst scennario if TheRegister keep you message at SSD it will be still to read for quite long time. SSD drive will fail because spark-sure or tunder bolt much easier then because of short life span.

      So take care about you power supply ;)

      1. Ammaross Danan

        Life Span != MTBF

        "OCZ VERTEX 3 SATA III 2.5" SSD 240GB life span is 2 Milion hours."

        Mean-Time Between Failure is not "Life Span." Here's an example from a reference:

        Example: "MTBF of 100,000 hours. [This figure] indicate[s] that in a population of 1,000,000 batteries, there will be approximately ten battery failures every hour during a single battery's four-hour life span. This is because during that one hour, the 1,000,000 batteries were operational for a sum of 1,000,000 hours; dividing total uptime (1,000,000) with MTBF (100,000) we get the average number of failures."

        So, one SSD in a group of 2mil dying every hour, while good odds, doesn't ensure your drive won't pop its clogs in the next 2 hours. Next in line is that mainstream mechanical drives barely crest the 1mil MTBF mark...

        As for write-endurance, I've heard of numerous drives having hardware/firmware deaths, but not many (if any) write-endurance problems.

  4. wim


    any news about how much information they could write per square cm ? (or whatever el reg measurement is in use now)

    1. Toastan Buttar

      The correct SI unit of capacity:

      Station wagons full of tapes per double-decker elephant.

      1. Magnus_Pym

        Obvious American reference. That would be imperial units then. The correct unit this side of the pond would be mini-vans full of floppy disks per slightly-less-than-Olympic-size swimming pool.

  5. LaeMing


    With recordable media!

  6. Rocketman

    Long Live The Disk Drive

    The disk drive will never die. That is all.

    1. Sureo

      @ rocketman

      My hard drives die quite regularly, thank you.

  7. Dave 62


    Wouldn't this also mean no more head-platter encroachment?

  8. It wasnt me

    Sounds good but ......

    I would imagine one of the main technological challenges will be seek time. Moving the mass of a laser in 10ms is not as easy as you might think. Look at the size of the sledges in an optical drive.

    Still even with this limitation it could find good uses in systems where huge writes are performed and theres not such a need for random access.

    Oh, and do repeated write (==heat) cycles cause a degradation in the material?

    1. janimal

      still magnetic

      The data is still stored magnetically. It is only written with the laser, reading would still be performed using a magnetic read head.

    2. Mikey

      @Sounds good but...

      You wouldn't have to shift the whole laser unit across the platter, only the focus lens and the micro-mirrors for transferring the bean along the arm. Most laser cutters us this arrangement, as it means the expensive part doesn't suffer from movement induced problems.

      Even though the write speed is one hell of a lot faster than the read speeds currently available, I'm thinking that any advancement to the old tech of HDDs is going to be a good thing for some time to come. SSDs might be the flashy new medium for high-speed access currently, but we'll still need cheaper and larger storage for the rest of our medium-low use data. Anything that can equal the gap between the two, however little, is welcome.

  9. Tony Rogerson

    @ what latency though?

    It's great writing at those speeds and I see lots of applications for that, in my realm - transaction log of a database for instance; web logs etc..

    However, what about a semi or full random workload, will there be latency like we have already on spinning media, has anybody read the paper yet

    It will be great if they can make the technology so we don't have spinning platters and head movements, basically make like flash :)


  10. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    Missing some details

    So it doesn't really say much about how this works (and I don't have $32 just for my curiosity). Does it write on hundreds of parallel tracks simultaneously to get the 100s times increase in write speed, or does the disk spin at 1500000 r.p.m. ? (If it is the latter, how many people does the disk fly through after a containment failure?)

    How does it read? Is it still done using GMR heads, or detecting polarisation change of the laser?

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon


      "how many people does the disk fly through after a containment failure?"

      Cue obligatory random sci-fi quote:

      "I come in peace"

      "Yeah, and you'll go in pieces, asshole*"

      *It was an American film. After all, Arnie never said "Fuck you, arsehole" - although it would have been quite funny if he did.

    2. Patrick R

      The "s" after 100s ... how much ?

      So let's say "Gigabytes /sec" means 1 Gigabyte and "hundreds of times faster" means... 8 hundred times faster, that would mean current technologies are still writing bits/sec ? Wow, I had not realized that (not sarcastic, genuinly curious).

  11. Graham Bartlett

    Both fFlash and spinny drives will likely be replaced

    Memristor looks like the way forward - solid state *and* no problems with write cycles.

  12. Nya

    Nice in theory

    It's all well and good, nice bit of research etc. But do we really want anything spinning in a laptop, or even a desktop or anything else these days due to the inherent mechanical failures? I don't. There is a chance for high end server storage but the speeds the issue with that. Nice theory though.

  13. brainwrong

    missing more details

    The obvious detail missing is how heat creates the magnetic field in the first place!

    Is this a newly discovered phenomenon, or something already known or predicted that's just been done for the first time? Does this technique have a name?

    - wearing my laser safety goggles.

  14. Chris Tierney

    Upgrade time.

    Can't wait to upgrade my SSD to a good old HDD.

  15. Is it me?

    let's just hope

    They don't build the factories on a flood plain.

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