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Disc storage capacity boosted self-assembling polymers

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:directed self-assembly? copolymers? hard disc drive?

A technique using directed self-assembly (DSA) of block copolymers, which could boost the storage capacity of hard disc drives by a factor of five has been developed by researchers at the University of Texas-Austin.

Current production methods for writing zeros and ones as magnetic dots on a metal surface are nearing the point of maxing out, as packing more dots into tighter proximity causes them to be affected by the magnetic fields of their neighbouring dots and become unstable, according to the researchersa group of chemists and engineers at UT Austin.

"The industry is now at about a terabit of information per square inch," said C. Grant Willson, professor of chemistry, biochemistry and engineering at UT Austin. "If we moved the dots much closer together with the current method, they would begin to flip spontaneously now and then, and the archival properties of hard disc drives would be lost."

Leon Dean

Leon Dean: an undergraduate chemical engineering major at the University of Texas-Austin, was part of the team that developed the new process for increasing the capacity of hard disc drives.
Credit: Alexander Wang, University of Texas-Austin.

But if the dots are isolated from one another with no magnetic material between them they can be pushed closer without destabilisation. Block copolymers coated on a disc surface are capable of self-assembling into highly regular patterns of dots or lines at room temperature, given the right prod, the researchers say. If the surface onto which they're coated already has some guideposts etched into it, the dots or lines will form into precisely the patterns needed for a hard disc drive, according to the researchers.

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