Sometimes complex problems can be solved with simple solutions. Take massively increasing the current storage capacity of magnetic hard drives. Turns out you just need to add a bit of sodium chloride to your lithography process and voilà — you can now fit 3.3TB per square inch, instead of the regular 0.5TB of today's latest drives.
This collaborative discovery was made by the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) in Singapore, with help from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Data Storage Institute (DSI).
Sodium chloride, known more commonly as salt, allows the high-resolution lithography processes to create nano-sized structures with more definition than was previously possible. As a result, the structures, or "grains", can store more information within them.
So far, the technology has been demonstrated at densities of up to 1.9TB per square inch, but IMRE has created examples up to the advertised 3.3TB.
This development, if it makes its way into the mainstream, could keep HDDs around much longer than we previously thought. Solid-state drives will continue to make inroads as main boot drives and in notebooks, especially as the GB per dollar equation improves, but until they match or exceed the affordability of conventional HDDs, we'll be archiving to magnetic media for years to come.