We'd sprinkle salt on ice cream if we thought it would improve the flavor the way it does with almost everything else on the planet. The fact that table salt isn't a food group does nothing to diminish our affection for this essential ingredient (sorry, doc), but did you know it also makes hard drives better?
As trippy as that sounds, Dr. Joel Yang from the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE), a research institute of Singapore's Agency of Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR), along with collaborators from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Data Storage Institute (DSI), came up with a way to increase HDD capacities six-fold using sodium chloride, the chemical grade of regular table salt. No joke.
The team used an "extremely high-resolution e-beam lithography process that produces super fine nano-sized structures." By adding sodium chloride to a developer solution used in existing lithography processes, Dr. Yang found that he was able to produce highly defined nanostructures down to 4.5nm half pitch. Best of all, his method doesn't require expensive equipment upgrades. Current technology uses grains of about 7-8nm in size deposited on the surface of storage media.
Salt beats pepper, every time.
"What we have shown is that bits can be patterned more densely together by reducing the number of processing steps," said Dr. Yang.
The eventual upshot to this breakthrough is that a 1TB drive could, in theory, hold up to 6TB of information in the same size using this new technology.