Hard drives are a bit like CPUs -- constantly increasing in capacity. Soon though we'll hit another brick wall for current magnetic technology. Thankfully a surprisingly common substance looks like it'll be able to triple capacity.
Salt -- yep, it doesn't just taste great on your chips -- has been highlighted as the magic ingredient to tripple bit density. It allows the creation of separate magnetic granules (as seen above), instead of having to rely on clumped 'islands' of granules, to store your 1s and 0s on the magnetic platter within your hard drive. The granules are created on the surface of the disk by deposition of a magnetic layer formed through the use of electron-beam lithography on a special solution. The secret to producing the tiny magnetic granules that were capable of maintaining shape without clumping together was to add a little salt into the mix.
Boffins from Singapore were able to cobble together data storage that peaked at 1.9 terabits per inch, which is well above what is currently possible with existing techniques. The researchers also proposed that densities as high as 3.3 Tbits per inch were possible -- anyone fancy an 18-terabyte hard disk?
Magnetic hard drives may not be all that cool any more -- what with SSDs breaking speed records -- but for those with large storage needs, magnetic isn't going anywhere soon. [IOP Science via TechCrunch]