Seagate reaches One Terabit per Square Inch Milestone in Hard Drive Storage with New Technology Demonstration

Mar 19, 2012

CUPERTINO, California - Seagate (NASDAQ:STX) has become the first hard drive manufacturer to achieve the milestone storage density of one terabit (one trillion bits) per square inch, producing a demonstration of the technology that promises to double the storage capacity of today’s hard drives when introduced later this decade and give rise to 3.5 inch hard drives with an extraordinary capacity of up to 60 terabytes over the 10 years that follow. The bits within a square inch of disc space, at the new milestone, far outnumber the stars in the Milky Way, which astronomers put between 200 billion and 400 billion.

Seagate reached the landmark data density with heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR), the next-generation recording technology. The current hard drive technology, Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (PMR), is used to record the spectrum of digitised data – from music, photos and video stored on home desktop and laptop PCs to business information housed in sprawling data centres – on the spinning platters inside every hard drive. PMR technology was introduced in 2006 to replace longitudinal recording, a method in place since the advent of hard drives for computer storage in 1956, and is expected to reach its capacity limit near one terabit per square inch in the next few years.

“The growth of social media, search engines, cloud computing, rich media and other data-hungry applications continues to stoke demand for ever greater storage capacity,” said Mark Re, Senior Vice President of Heads and Media Research and Development at Seagate. “Hard disc drive innovations like HAMR will be a key enabler of the development of even more data-intense applications in the future, extending the ways in which businesses and consumers worldwide use, manage and store digital content.”

Hard drive manufacturers increase areal density and capacity by shrinking a platter’s data bits to pack more into each square inch of disc space. They also tighten the data tracks, the concentric circles on the disc’s surface that anchor the bits. The key to areal density gains is to do both without disruptions to the bits’ magnetisation, a phenomenon that can garble data. Using HAMR technology, Seagate has achieved a linear bit density of about two million bits per inch, once thought impossible, resulting in a data density of just over one trillion bits, or or terabit, per square inch – 55 per cent higher than today’s areal density ceiling of 620 gigabits per square inch.

The maximum capacity of today’s 3.5 inch hard drives is three terabytes (TB), at about 620 gigabits per square inch, while 2.5 inch drives top out at 750 gigabytes (GB), or roughly 500 gigabits per square inch. The first generation of HAMR drives, at just over one terabit per square inch, will probably more than double these capacities – up to 6TB for 3.5 inch drives and 2TB for 2.5 inch models. The technology offers a scale of capacity growth never before possible, with a theoretical areal density limit ranging from 5 to 10 terabits per square inch – 30TB to 60TB for 3.5 inch drives and 10TB to 20TB for 2.5 inch drives.

The one terabit per square inch demonstration extends a long line of technology firsts for Seagate, including:

  • 1980: ST-506, the first hard drive, at 5.25 inches, small enough to be widely deployed in early microcomputers, the precursor of the modern PC. The five megabyte drive cost US$1,500.
  • 1992: The first 7,200 RPM hard drive, a Barracuda® drive
  • 1996: The first 10,000 RPM hard drive, a Cheetah® drive
  • 2000: The first 15,000 RPM drive, also a Cheetah hard drive
  • 2006: Momentus® 5400.3 drive, a 2.5 inch laptop drive and the industry's first drive to feature perpendicular magnetic recording technology
  • 2007: Momentus FDE (Full Disc Encryption) drive, the industry’s first self-encrypting hard drive
  • 2010: Momentus XT drive, the first solid state hybrid hard drive, combining traditional spinning media with NAND flash, to deliver speeds rivalling solid state drives (SSDs)

Seagate achieved the one terabit per square inch breakthroughs in materials science and near-field optics at its heads and media research and development centres in Bloomington, Minnesota and Fremont, California.

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About Seagate
Seagate is the worldwide leader in hard disc drives and storage solutions. Learn more at http://www.seagate.com.

Copyright 2012 Seagate Technology LLC. All rights reserved. Printed in USA. Seagate, Seagate Technology, Barracuda, Cheetah, Momentus and the Wave logo are registered trademarks of Seagate Technology LLC in the United States and/or other countries. When referring to drive capacity, one gigabyte, or GB, equals one billion bytes; and one terabyte, or TB, equals one trillion bytes. Your computer operating system may use a different standard of measurement and report a lower capacity. In addition, some of the listed capacity is used for formatting and other functions, and thus will not be available for data storage. Actual data rates may vary depending on operating environment and other factors. Seagate reserves the right to change, without notice, product offerings or specifications.