Thinness points way to new hard disk limits
2009 R&D 100 Winner
In an effort to boost the capacity of existing and established storage technologies, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, Calif., and Veeco Instruments Inc., Plainview, N.Y., have introduced the NEXUS DLC-X Coating System with Pulsed Filtered Cathodic Arc Technology, which is used to apply dense, even, and unprecedentedly thin films of diamond-like carbon (DLC) to the “sliders” (read/write head assemblies) of computer hard disks. The system starts by etching the head surface to clean it and optimizes the topology of the slider for minimum pole-tip recession (PTR), which describes the tendency of the actual magnetic element to recede from the surface of the head with wear. It then coats the read/write heads and landing pads with ultrathin, continuous, uniform protective DLC films, 20-30% thinner than those previously available with suitable quality. The thickness reduction, from about 5 nm to less than 2 nm, coupled with much better PTR control and reduction, translates directly into closer spacing between the read/write head and the magnetic storage layer, ultimately increasing the information capacity. As a result, NEXUS DLC-X will help push hard-disk data densities from the present state of the art (400 GB/in2) toward what is thought to be their physics limit in the range of one to a few terabytes per square inch.