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New HDD read heads could significantly boost capacity

Joshua Topolsky
Sure, your hard drive does an okay job, spinning around, hefting 200 gigabits per square inch, but wouldn't you know it, the sensors used to read all that data are reaching their physical limits. Enter the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, UK, where researchers are proposing a whole new sensor design that could result in much thinner and smaller read heads, leading to drives with data densities as high as one terabit per square inch. According to the researchers, the sensors would use less power than current read heads, and could improve the speed of the reader. In the words of lead researcher Marian Vopsaroiu, "You could read back data ten times faster... instead of one GHz, you can read at five to ten GHz." Currently, hard drives use the magneto-resistance effect to read data, needing a constant current which converts resistance to voltage. The new sensors work by using the magneto-electric effect, wherein data's magnetic field will directly generate voltage instead of resistance. The new heads will be smaller and lighter as well, using half as many layers of materials as current sensors, but there are difficulties in putting together the complex alloys of the tiny readers. Want to know all the truly techy details? Grab a cup of strong coffee and hit the read link.