Heat pulse switching (via York University)
Current hard drive capacities seem enormous compared to ten, or even five, years ago. However, the way our hard drives currently store data has a limitation on how far we can go. This limitation is commonly known as the superparamagnetic limit. Superparamagnetism sets limits due to magnetic particles that are used and their minimum size allowed before they start randomly changing directions.
Past superparamagnetic limits:
Longitudinal recording 100 - 200 Gbit/ in²
Perpendicular recording (2010) 667 Gbit - 1Tbit/ in²
A group of researchers at University of York in the United Kingdom are working on a heat-assisted magnetic recording technology that can record terabytes of information per second. Dr Alexey Kimel, of project partner Radboud University Nijmegen, explained, "For centuries, it has been believed that heat can only destroy the magnetic order. Now we have successfully demonstrated that it can, in fact, be a sufficient stimulus for recording information on a magnetic medium.”
Instead of using a strong magnetic field, it works by using pulses of heat to invert the magnet poles of certain locations. In addition, the materials used with heat-assisted magnetic recording are much more stable when working at smaller scales. This allows the researchers to create hard disks that can store information more densely, while at the same time speeding up the read/write processing. The entire system is also more energy efficient, no word of how much more.
The new technology has many significant advancements. However, the development is still in its early stages and much more work is needed before it will become commercially available to the public. I personally believe that solid state, non-magnetic, based storage will ultimately be the true next-gen norm. However, the heat-assisted storage will still have a place.