Flash will eat the low end of the disk business over the next 10 years, but rotating rust (OK plating – but it isn’t alliterative) will live on. According to New Scientist engineers at Seagate have demonstrated a workable method of using heat-assisted recording to increase recording density. Specifically:

More magnetically stored information can be squeezed onto a hard disc by heating it. This changes the magnetic properties of the regions used to hold data so that they can be packed more closely together.

Unfortunately this heating evaporates the lubricant that lets a recording head travel over a disk smoothly. If the recording head crashes into the surface the whole disk then becomes useless.

Seagate’s answer is to use a material made from millions of carbon nanotubes, embedded in the disc drive housing, to store the lubricant. As the disc spins, the lubricant will leak out and cover the surface of the disc.

Just as Ethernet has progressed from Carrier Sense Multiple Access/Collision Detection 20 years ago to an entirely different protocol today, it looks like rotating media will be with us for decades to come, perhaps through the use of “UV photon induced electric field poling“, even if it is no longer using magnetism to store our videos.

The chances of either of these ideas making it into production are slim. The important thing is that we have yet another option as we continue to increase the storage capacity of our digital world.