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Fujitsu shows world's smallest optical spot

But don't laugh - it could boost hard disk capacities ten-fold

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Fujitsu has demonstrated what it claims is the world's first optical device capable of producing a beam less than 100nm across.

The company's computer products group plans to use the new multi-layered optical element in hard disks - it says that thermally-assisted recording (TAR) will be key to the next generation of high-capacity hard disks.

The device is basically a very fine laser - the idea is to use it to heat up the disk surface, making that spot easier to record on. This in turn allows the use of the high-coercivity (harder to re-magnetise) coatings, which according to a white paper by the Fujitsu researchers, will be essential for Terabit-class recording.

Fujitsu says that the optical element will eventually enable it to record data at a density of 1 Terabit per square inch or higher. This compares with the record of 421 Gigabits per square inch set by Seagate earlier this year, in a demo using a perpendicular head and thermally-stable media.

Other hard disk companies, such as Hitachi, are also working on TAR. Hitachi says that it will allow engineers to get the grain size down to 2nm, using high-coercivity disk coatings, whereas conventional magnetic recording could only go to 8nm.

Fujitsu said that, allied to the recent introduction of perpendicular recording, TAR will enable hard disk manufacturers to produce drives with capacities ten times higher that what's possible now.®

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