Current hard drives have limitations. They aren’t what they once were, but the limits are still there. The work being done by researches at the University of Texas could increase drive capacity by up to 500 percent, and do so in an inexpensive fashion.

Drive space expansion has been exponential since it was first introduced back in the 1950s. Storage space becomes greater and greater, and the cost of storage becomes cheaper. Also, the amount of space that the data takes up is continuing to grow smaller. If technology continues to advance at the same pace it has been then we can expect 40 terabyte hard drives to only cost about a dollar per TB. All that data will fit on a tiny 2.5 inch drive.

So why does data storage seem to have hit a plateau? It has to do with magnetic polarity. Data storage is just trillions of tiny magnetic dots that store the bits of data individually. For example, we can squeeze a trillion dots onto a 1 inch space and we have a 128 GB hard drive that fits in the palm of your hand. The problem comes when you try to put them even closer together. They start to affect one another, and information can randomly be damaged and lost for good. Obviously, the amount of storage space wouldn’t matter if you couldn’t promise the data would still be there when you needed it.

That’s what the researchers from the University of Texas are trying to fix. They have developed a co-polymer of self assembling magnetic dots that will be grouped far closer than is currently possible. And because they are self assembling, it is a far less expensive process as well. The secret is in the block co-polymers which can create dots that are a mere 10 nanometers. These are by far the smallest byte holding blocks ever designed.

Yes, in just seconds, these dots will multiply to take up whatever space they are allowed to inhabit. The metal surface must be properly prepared before the block co-polymers are introduced. Then they do the rest of the work themselves, and almost instantly. And the fact that they can place the dots closer together and maintain data integrity solves the problem that was holding up advancements.

A special coating keeps the disk safe from any outside magnetic sources that could disrupt the data and cause it to become unstable. Hitachi Global Storage Technologies is the company that researchers have teamed up with to help make this new technology available to all.