The rapidly growing quantity of digital information is placing stringent demands on the storage capacity of magnetic media, such as hard drives. Increasing the number of magnetic bits stored in a given area can increase capacity but requires reducing bit size, which makes each bit more vulnerable to accidental overwriting.
To compensate, researchers are exploring ‘hard’ magnetic materials, which have bits that are difficult to switch and therefore long-lived. However, writing to these materials with magnetic fields alone requires very high field strengths that are difficult to produce in hard drives.
This conundrum has spurred the development of techniques in which magnetic write heads are assisted by other sources of power, such as heat, microwaves or an electric field. However, the first two involve adding considerable complexity to hard drives, and the third has been completed only under unrealistic conditions. Now, under realistic conditions, Tiejun Zhou, Zhimin Yuan, Bo Liu and co-workers at the A*STAR Data Storage Institute in Singapore have demonstrated practical electric-field-assisted magnetic data writing on a hard drive.
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