Seagate Reaches 1 Terabit Per Square Inch Milestone In Hard Drive Storage

CUPERTINO, Calif. – March 19, 2012 – Seagate (NASDAQ:STX) has become the first hard drive maker to achieve the milestone storage density of 1 terabit (1 trillion bits) per square inch, producing a demonstration of the technology that promises to double the storage capacity of today’s hard drives upon its introduction later this decade and give rise to 3.5-inch hard drives with an extraordinary capacity of up to 60 terabytes over the 10 years that follow. The bits within a square inch of disk space, at the new milestone, far outnumber stars in the Milky Way, which astronomers put between 200 billion and 400 billion.

Seagate reached the landmark data density with heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR), the next- generation recording technology. The current hard drive technology, Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (PMR), is used to record the spectrum of digitized data – from music, photos, and video stored on home desktop and laptop PCs to business information housed in sprawling data centers – on the spinning platters inside every hard drive. PMR technology was introduced in 2006 to replace longitudinal recording, a method in place since the advent of hard drives for computer storage in 1956, and is expected to reach its capacity limit near 1 terabit per square inch in the next few years.

“The growth of social media, search engines, cloud computing, rich media and other data-hungry applications continues to stoke demand for ever greater storage capacity,” said Mark Re, senior vice president of Heads and Media Research and Development at Seagate. “Hard disk drive innovations like HAMR will be a key enabler of the development of even more data-intense applications in the future, extending the ways businesses and consumers worldwide use, manage and store digital content.”

Hard drive manufacturers increase areal density and capacity by shrinking a platter’s data bits to pack more within each square inch of disk space. They also tighten the data tracks, the concentric circles on the disk’s surface that anchor the bits. The key to areal density gains is to do both without disruptions to the bits’ magnetization, a phenomenon that can garble data. Using HAMR technology, Seagate has achieved a linear bit density of about 2 million bits per inch, once thought impossible, resulting in a data density of just over 1 trillion bits, or 1 terabit, per square inch – 55 percent higher than today’s areal density ceiling of 620 gigabits per square inch.

The maximum capacity of today’s 3.5-inch hard drives is 3 terabytes (TB), at about 620 gigabits per square inch, while 2.5-inch drives top out at 750 gigabytes (GB), or roughly 500 gigabits per square inch. The first generation of HAMR drives, at just over 1 terabit per square inch, will likely more than double these capacities – to 6TB for 3.5-inch drives and 2TB for 2.5-inch models. The technology offers a scale of capacity growth never before possible, with a theoretical areal density limit ranging from 5 to 10 terabits per square inch – 30TB to 60TB for 3.5-inch drives and 10TB to 20TB for 2.5-inch drives.

The 1 terabit per square inch demonstration extends a long line of storied technology firsts for Seagate, including:

  • 1980: ST-506, the first hard drive, at 5.25 inches, small enough to be widely deployed in early microcomputers, the precursor of the modern PC. The 5 megabyte drive cost $1,500.
  • 1992: The first 7200RPM hard drive, a Barracuda ® drive
  • 1996: The first 10,000RPM hard drive, a Cheetah ® drive
  • 2000: The first 15,000RPM drive, also a Cheetah hard drive
  • 2006: Momentus ® 5400.3 drive, a 2.5-inch laptop drive and the world’s first drive to feature perpendicular magnetic recording technology
  • 2007: Momentus FDE (Full Disk Encryption) drive, the industry’s first self-encrypting hard drive
  • 2010: Momentus XT drive, the first solid state hybrid hard drive, combining traditional spinning media with NAND flash, to deliver speeds rivaling solid state drives (SSDs)

Seagate achieved the 1 terabit per square inch breakthroughs in materials science and near-field optics at its heads and media research and development centers in Bloomington, Minnesota, and Fremont, California.


I found this article from August in 2002, here we are almost 10 years later with the technology.

Seagate Swings “HAMR” To Increase Disc Drive Densities By A Factor Of 100

PITTSBURGH – August 21, 2002 – Seagate has decided to use a HAMR to cram more and more bits of information per square inch into hard disc drives, pushing the limits of magnetic recording even further beyond what was ever thought possible. The Company today demonstrated its revolutionary Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR) technology, which records data magnetically on high-stability media using laser thermal assistance.

This demonstration took place during the grand opening celebration of Seagate’s new 200,000 square foot, state of the art research center located in Pittsburgh, PA.

HAMR, combined with self-ordered magnetic arrays of iron-platinum particles, is expected to break through the so-called superparamagnetic limit of magnetic recording by more than a factor of 100 to ultimately deliver storage densities as great as 50 terabits per square inch. This will provide the capability for people to store the entire printed contents of the Library of Congress on a single disc drive in their notebook computers.

Seagate’s HAMR technology is also designed to achieve its high areal densities at a cost structure on pace with the hard disc drives of today, making HAMR a key enabling technology that will allow the adoption of mass storage to continue to enter various emerging markets.

“With this demonstration of HAMR, Seagate has offered us a glimpse of future magnetic recording technology. Technologies such as HAMR will continue to keep disc drives as the preferred mass storage device for mainstream computing for many years to come,” said Dave Reinsel, research manager at IDC. “Competitive offerings to traditional magnetic recording must not only be able to achieve the fast performance, high capacities, and reliability found in today’s disc drives, but also must be priced competitively. Seagate’s HAMR technology has the potential to maintain a competitive balance of these attributes thus paving the way for the integration of this new technology.”

Seagate Research has worked on HAMR technology as well as various other storage technologies since it was established in a temporary research facility in 1998. Last year, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Advanced Technology Program recognized the impact that HAMR will hold for storage and awarded Seagate and its research partners a grant worth over $10 million over five years. Seagate’s forward-thinking strategy with R & D has enabled the company to consistently achieve its leadership position in all markets Seagate serves.

“Seagate’s leadership position can be attributed to an ongoing commitment to investment in research and technology development which provides us with time-to-market products for our customers,” said Steve Luczo, Seagate chief executive officer. “By providing leadership products that give our customers a significant competitive advantage, we have strengthened our strategic relationships with the world’s leading technology providers.”

The Need for HAMR: How it Works

HAMR technology will significantly extend the capacity of modern magnetic disc drives that use magnetic heads to read and write digital data onto spinning discs. If the storage density (the number of data bits stored on a given disc surface) continues its phenomenal growth rate, within the next five-to-ten years the data bits will become so small that they may become magnetically unstable due to a phenomenon known as superparamagnetism. The solution is to use a more stable medium, however today’s magnetic heads are unable to write data on such media. HAMR solves this problem by heating the medium with a laser-generated beam at the precise spot where data bits are being recorded. When heated, the medium becomes easier to write, and the rapid subsequent cooling stabilizes the written data. The result of this heat-assisted recording is a dramatic increase in the recorded density that can be achieved.

A Series of Firsts: Seagate’s Tradition of HDD Technology Leadership

Over the years, Seagate has achieved numerous technology breakthroughs, holding key patents for many of the most significant technologies used in storage today.

From the introduction of the world’s first 7200 RPM, 10K RPM, and 15K RPM disc drives, to setting several areal density records in storage, the most recent moving past 100 Gb per square inch, Seagate is widely recognized for its technology leadership. Its industry “firsts” also include the successful use of Fluid Dynamic Bearings in hard disc drives over five years before any competitor could attempt to implement the technology. The use of Rotation Vibration (RV) sensors was also developed and introduced into products first by Seagate, enabling enterprise disc drives used in mission-critical environments to perform optimally even in the most challenging conditions.

For more information about Seagate, visit

Seagate is the worldwide leader in the design, manufacturing and marketing of hard disc drives for Enterprise, PC and Consumer Electronics applications. The Company is committed to delivering award-winning products, customer support and reliability, to meet the world’s growing demand for information storage. Seagate can be found around the globe and at

Seagate, Seagate Technology and the Seagate logo are registered trademarks of Seagate Technology LLC. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Seagate reserves the right to change, without notice, product offerings or specifications.

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