In the land of Germany, Ruijuan Xiao at the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research and a few pals have devised a method of increasing the density of storage by up to 1,000 times, while at the same time increasing the life of it by huge lengths. MIT's Technology Review is reporting the advances in technology, which is called carbon ring storage.
Apparently, the issue with magnetic memory is making something that can last longer than about 10 years, and then density of the data depends on the magnetic grains used to construct the modules, but these grains can't continue to get smaller. Apparently this new carbon ring storage doesn't just fix one or two of these problems, but it manages to kill three birds with one stone. Technology Review provides a quick background on the topic of memory, to help with understanding the new process: "In magnetic storage, the data is stored in the orientation of the field in a specific magnetic domain. So the task for data-storage guys is to find a material in which the spontaneous reversal of this magnetic field occurs significantly less often than once every 10 years. This is related to how easy it is to flip the magnetic field from one direction to another, known as the magnetic anisotropy energy (MAE)."
Cobalt is the material that wins in terms of MAE, and thus it is used over the other choices, but it depends on how it is structured as to how the MAE really ranks. High end storage solutions pack about 50,000 atoms into a hexagonal close packed formation, which leads to cobalt having an MAE of 0.06 meV per atom. Technology Review believe that it should be possible to draw this number down to 15,000 atoms, but no less. This new carbon ring storage manages to trick the cobalt dimers into thinking that it's in the aforementioned structure, which means the MAE of cobalt is calculated to be about 100 meV. Usually chemical bonds have a large effect on the MAE of these storage solutions, however it is stated that using carbon hexagons, no difference is made.
At the end of the day, it means you will get added stability, a much longer life, and a vastly increased density. Though this is a good improvement, don't expect to see it in the next range of MP3 players... for many years to come.