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IBM boffins have come up with a way faster method of recording data on magnetic media, the journal Science has reported. The technique uses an ultra high frequency AC current to flip the magnetic poles of electrons in a cobalt-copper-cobalt sandwich. Or, as the researchers themselves put it: "Current-induced switching in the orientation of magnetic moments is observed in cobalt-copper-cobalt structures, for currents flowing perpendicularly through the layers. Magnetic domains in adjacent cobalt layers can be manipulated controllably between stable parallel and antiparallel configurations by applying current pulses of the appropriate sign." The upshot, say the researchers, is a way of storing data twice as quickly as has been achievable to date and three times faster than currently available hard drives. However, the scientists, from two teams based in the US and Switzerland, admitted that the technique is some way away from commercial exploitation. The teams' efforts parallel IBM's ongoing programme to extend the capacity of magnetic media. Earlier this year it announced a hard drive capable of storing 20 billion bits per square inch of platter. ®

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