Scientists may have found a new way to save data to hard drives which gets around the current speed limits.
A hard drive stores bits in the form of tiny magnetic domains. The directions of the magnetic north and south poles of these domains, which are referred to as the magnetization, determine whether they are a 0 or a 1.
Data is stored by changing the direction of the magnetization of the associated bits. At present this is done using a write head to create a local magnetic field, which makes a bit change direction.
“The number of bits has been growing rapidly for many years, but the write speed has hardly increased,” says researcher Sjors Schellekens of the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands. “There’s a need for a new data storage technology.”
He is the lead author of a study published in the journal in Nature Communications.
The physicists use a special property of electrons, the spin – a kind of internal compass in the electron.
Using ultra-fast laser pulses they generate a flow of electrons in a material which all have the same spin. The resulting spin current changes the magnetic properties of the material.
“The change in the magnetization is of the order of 100 femtoseconds, which is a factor 1,000 faster than what is possible with today’s technology”, says Schellekens.
The method is also a step towards future optical computer chips,.
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