Researchers develop nanotech for 50TB tape cartridge

Maxell, Tokyo Institute of Technology jointly coat an ultra-thin tape with nanoparticles

Hitachi Maxell, Ltd. and Tokyo Institute of Technology jointly announced this month that they have developed an ultra high capacity tape media that will eventually lead to magnetic tape cartridges with more than 50TB capacity, or 33 times more than today's LTO Ultrium 5 tape cartridge.

Maxell and Tokyo Institute of Technology said they created an ultra-thin nano-structured magnetic film and, using the perpendicular magnetic recording method, demonstrated a world-record areal density of 45Gbits per inch.

Schematic view of an ultra high capacity tape medium
Schematic view of an ultra high capacity tape medium (source: Hitachi Maxell Ltd.

"It was necessary to make the magnetic powder small to increase the areal recording density and to raise storage capacity a cartridge," Maxell stated.

According to Satoshi Matsunuma, a scientist in Maxell's R&D center in Tokyo, LTO products using the new tape medium would come to market in about a decade.

"The capacity of LTO media is increasing by 41% a year. So, 50 TB cartridge is suitable for a product in about 2020, or before that," he said.

The tape media used by Maxell and Tokyo Institute of Technology is the same type that is commonly used today, but the film is vastly thinner and powered with magnetic particles of a size below 10 nanometers. A nanometer is equal to one billionth of a meter.

The process to create the new higher-capacity tape medium uses a standard perpendicular magnetic recording tape with laminated soft magnetic underlayers that are successively formed on a 4.5 micron-thick plastic ferromagnetic film. A micron is one millionth of a meter.

The technology to create the film uses a method called "Facing Targets Sputtering", where two particle injectors or guns coat the tape substrate so that plasma is trapped between targets by a magnetic field and never actually touch the substrate.

Tape is still a very attractive technology for data archive, "especially in [an] eco-friendly storage system" because of its lower power consumption compared with spinning disk, Hitachi stated in a press release. Unlike disk drive, tape cartridges can sit idle for decades and still retain their data.

Today's LTO-5 tape cartridges today are capable of holding 1.6TB of uncompressed data.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

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