Sound Waves Form Next Frontier for Computer Storage Solutions

Research undertaken at Oregon State University has found that there may be a viable way in the future to use high-frequency sound waves in order to improve magnetic data storage. Hard disk drives and SSDs could both benefit from this breakthrough in computer storage, which has been hailed as one of the greatest things that technology can do for magnetic storage.

It is commonly stated that there is always a need for more storage/memory in a smaller space, with a smaller cost and less energy consumption. These demands are constantly being worked towards in laboratories and workshops across the world, with research always being carried out to improve the state of computer storage. This new technology is called ‘acoustic-assisted magnetic recording’, and was presented to a team of industry experts at the 12th MMM / Intermag Conference in Chicago this week.

The process has worked in the past temporarily heating the disk platters within a hard disk drive. They become less stiff for a small amount of time, which allows more data to be stored in a particular spot in that window of opportunity. However, heating the platters is a difficult process to sustain, especially as heat tends to spread beyond where it is directed. Heat is also a wasteful form of energy as it is tough to harness, and surplus is often needed just to ensure that the criteria is met.

With the new technology, feted as a revolution in PC storage/memory, ultrasound is used as a direct substitute for heat. It is directed at a very specific location on the disk platter which creates a special elasticity, which in turn allows more data to be stored. Once the ultrasound is turned off, the material is immediately returned to shape, unlike the heat process which causes heat energy to linger. The data stored in the process remains safe even after the ultrasound system has been turned off.

The researchers who have discovered this new technique have not established how much data storage could be increased by using their new method but they have stated that they will continue to experiment with materials, cost issues and performance levels. Their next step will to be established whether the ultrasound would have an effect on other forms of storage/memory, which would truly be a breakthrough for all types of computer storage solutions. The technological holy grail of more storage in less physical space, with lower energy consumption and an affordable price tag may yet be in reach for thousands of consumers and businesses.

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