Hard disk 'speed limit' found

If there is an article of faith in computer science, it's that everything can keep getting faster and faster.

But scientists say they've discovered an apparent speed limit that will restrict how quickly data can be written onto disks and then retrieved. The good news: This limit is about 1,000 times faster than today's state-of-the-art data storage devices. When information is stored on disks, minuscule regions that make up each bit of data are magnetized in one direction or its opposite, to represent a 0 or a 1. Rewriting data involves sending an electromagnetic pulse that reverses the spin of selected bits. Accelerate the pulse and you shorten the time needed to store or rewrite information.

But if the pulses come too quickly and intensely, the high energy involved makes some of the magnetic changes happen randomly instead of predictably and reliably, according to a group of researchers writing in Wednesday's edition of the journal Nature. The scientists confirmed this problem by firing up the particle accelerator at Stanford University and blasting electrons at a piece of the magnetic material used to store computer data.

News source: CNN

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