Coating the platters of a high-density hard drive with graphene instead of a carbon-based overcoat results in ten times the storage capacity.

Graphene Drives

A team of scientists led by the University of Cambridge has developed a new ultra-high density hard drive that they say has ten times the data storage of other leading drives — thanks to an ultra-thin coating of graphene.

Graphene, which is a material made of a one-atom-thick layer of carbon, is a bit of a buzzy darling in the material sciences community, to the point that it’s nearly a meme to implement it in just about anything, whether it’s computers, batteriesor outerwear, that needs a high-tech update. But in this case, it does seem to make a significant difference, according to research published in the journal Nature Communications, and the Cambridge research could herald a new era of ultra-powerful hard drives that make today’s storage issues seem trivial.

Digital Sardines

There’s nothing magical about graphene that makes hard drives suddenly work better. But the ultra-thin material does cut down on some of the filler that gets built into drives, allowing for greater storage density and performance.

Hard drives are essentially made of rapidly spinning platters that are protected by carbon-based overcoats (COCs). As technology has improved, manufacturers have made those carbon layers thinner and thinner. But there’s still room for improvement: swapping the COCs out for even thinner layers of graphene means less filler bulk and more physical space that can be reallocated for data storage, according to a press release. And, it turns out, graphene still works just fine as a protective coating, so there’s very little tradeoff from abandoning COCs for graphene.

“Demonstrating that graphene can serve as protective coating for conventional hard disk drives and that it is able to withstand [data recording] conditions is a very important result,” Cambridge Graphene Center researcher and study coauthor Anna Ott said in the release. “This will further push the development of novel high areal density hard disk drives.”

READ MORE: Ultra-high-density hard drives made with graphene store ten times more data [University of Cambridge]

More on graphene: If Graphene Batteries Do Everything Scientists Say, They Could Be a Gamechanger

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