Research reveals ~liquid nitrogen temperature molecular magnets with 100X denser storage

Must be on a materials science binge these days. I read another article this week in on “Major leap towards data storage at the molecular level” reporting on a Nature article “Molecular magnetic hysteresis at 60K“, where researchers from University of Manchester, led by Dr David Mills and Dr Nicholas Chilton from the School of Chemistry, have come up with a new material that provides molecular level magnetics at almost liquid nitrogen temperatures.

Previously, molecular magnets only operated at from 4 to 14K (degrees Kelvin) from research done over the last 25 years or so, but this new  research shows similar effects operating at ~60K or close to liquid nitrogen temperatures. Nitrogen freezes at 63K and boils at ~77K, and I would guess, is liquid somewhere between those temperatures.

What new material

The new material, “hexa-tert-butyldysprosocenium complex—[Dy(Cpttt)2][B(C6F5)4], with Cpttt = {C5H2tBu3-1,2,4} and tBu = C(CH3)3“, dysprosocenium for short was designed (?) by the researchers at Manchester and was shown to exhibit magnetism at the molecular level at 60K.

The storage effect is hysteresis, which is a materials ability to remember the last (magnetic/electrical/?) field it was exposed to and the magnetic field is measured in oersteds.

The researchers claim the new material provides magnetic hysteresis at a sweep level of 22 oersteds. Not sure what “sweep level of 22 oersteds” means but I assume a molecule of the material is magnetized with a field strength of 22 oersteds and retains this magnetic field over time.

Reports of disk’s death, have been greatly exaggerated

While there seems to be no end in sight for the densities of flash storage these days with 3D NAND (see my 3D NAND, how high can it go post or listen to our GBoS FMS2017 wrap-up with Jim Handy podcast), the disk industry lives on.

Disk industry researchers have been investigating HAMR, ([laser] heat assisted magnetic recording, see my Disk density hits new record … post) for some time now to increase disk storage density. But to my knowledge HAMR has not come out in any generally available disk device on the market yet. HAMR was supposed to provide the next big increase in disk storage densities.

Maybe they should be looking at CAMMR, or cold assisted magnetic molecular recording (heard it here, 1st).

According to Dr Chilton using the new material at 60K in a disk device would increase capacity by 100X. Western Digital just announced a 20TB MyBook Duo disk system for desktop storage and backup. With this new material, at 100X current densities, we could have 2PB Mybook Duo storage system on your desktop.

That should keep my ever increasing video-photo-music library in fine shape and everything else backed up for a little while longer.


Photo Credit(s): Molecular magnetic hysteresis at 60K, Nature article


Disk density hits new record, 1Tb/sqin with HAMR

Seagate has achieved 1Tb/sqin recording (source:
Seagate has achieved 1Tb/sqin recording (source:

Well I thought 36TB on my Mac was going to be enough.  Then along comes Seagate with this weeks announcement of reaching 1Tb/sqin (1 Trillion bits per square inch) using their new HAMR (heat assisted magnetic recording) technology.

Current LFF drive technology runs at about 620Gb/sqin providing a  3.5″ drive capacity of around 3TB or about 500Gb/sqin for 2.5″ drives supporting ~750GB.  The new 1Tb/sqin drives will easily double these capacities.

But the exciting part is that with the new HAMR or TAR (thermally assisted recording) heads and media, the long term potential is even brighter.  This new technology should be capable of 5 to 10Tb/sqin which means 3.5″ drives of 30 to 60TB and 2.5″ drives of 10 t0 20TB.

HAMR explained

HAMR uses both lasers and magnetic heads to record data in even smaller spaces than current PMR (perpendicular magnetic recording) or vertical recording heads do today.   You may recall that PMR was introduced in 2006 and now, just 6 years later we are already seeing the next generation head and media technologies in labs.

Denser disks requires smaller bits and with smaller bits disk technology runs into three problems readability, writeability and stability, AKA the magnetic recording trilemma.  Smaller bits require better stability, but better stability makes it much harder to write or change a bits magnetic orientation.  Enter the laser in HAMR, with laser heating the bits can become much more maleable.  These warmed bits can be more easily written bypassing the stability-writeability problem, at least for now.

However, just as in any big technology transition there are other competing ideas with the potential to win out.  One possibility we have discussed previously is shingled writes using bit patterned media (see my Sequential only disk post) but this requires a rethinking/re-architecting of disk storage.  As such, at best it’s an offshoot of today’s disk technology and at worst, it’s a slight detour on the overall technology roadmap.

Of course PMR is not going away any time soon. Other vendors (and proboblf Seagate) will continue to push PMR technology as far as it can go.  After all, it’s a proven technology, inside millions of spinning disks today.  But, according to Seagate, it can achieve 1Tb/sqin but go no further.

So when can I get HAMR disks

There was no mention in the press release as to when HAMR disks would be made available to the general public, but typically the drive industry has been doubling densities every 18 to 24 months.  Assuming they continue this trend across a head/media technology transition like HAMR, we should have those 6GB hard disk drives sometime around 2014, if not sooner.

HAMR technology will likely make it’s first appearance in 72oorpm drives.  Bigger capacities seem to always first come out in slower performing disks (see my Disk trends, revisited post)

HAMR performance wasn’t discussed in the Seagate press release, but with 2Mb per linear track inch and 15Krpm disk drives, the transfer rates would seem to need to be on the order of at least 850MB/sec at the OD (outer diameter) for read data transfers.

How quickly HAMR heads can write data is another matter. The fact that the laser heats the media before the magnetic head can write it seems to call for a magnetic-plus-optical head contraption where the laser is in front of the magnetics (see picture above).

How long it takes to heat the media to enable magnetization is one critical question in write performance. But this could potential be mitigated by the strength of the laser pulse and how far the  laser has to be in front of the recording head.

With all this talk of writing, there hasn’t been lots of discussion on read heads. I guess everyone’s assuming the current PMR read heads will do the trick, with a significant speed up of course, to handle the higher linear densities.

What’s next?

As for what comes after HAMR, checkout another post I did on using lasers to magnetize (write) data (see Magnetic storage using lasers alone).  The advantage of this new “laser-only” technology was a significant speed up in transfer speeds.  It seems to me that HAMR could easily be an intermediate step on the path to laser-only recording having both laser optics and magnetic recording/reading heads in one assembly.


Lets see 6TB in 2014, 12TB in 2016 and 24TB in 2018, maybe I won’t need that WD Thunderbolt drive string as quickly as I thought.