Sony develops tape tech that could lead to 185 TB cartridges

Sony has created a magnetic tape material that can store up to 74 times more data per unit area than materials in use today

Sony has developed a magnetic tape material that can store data at 148 gigabits per square inch, roughly 74 times the density of standard tapes.

The technology represents the world's highest recording density for the medium, the electronics giant said, and could allow the creation of tape cartridges with a capacity of 185 TB.

By comparison, LTO-6 (Linear Tape-Open), the latest generation of magnetic tape storage, has a density of 2 gigabits per square inch, or 2.5 TB per cartridge uncompressed.

Used for storage since the first digital computers, magnetic tape has been eclipsed by hard disk drives and flash drives as a medium in recent years but is still in use to preserve critical information over the long term in data centers, corporate archives and other facilities.

To make the new recording material, Sony used a kind of vacuum thin film-forming technology called sputter deposition. The process involves shooting argon ions at a polymer film substrate, which produces layers of magnetic crystal particles.

By tweaking the sputter conditions and developing a soft magnetic underlayer on the film, the manufacturer was able to create a layer of fine magnetic particles with an average size of 7.7 nanometers.

At the Intermag Europe 2014 international magnetics conference starting in Germany on May 4, Sony will describe the new technology in a presentation with IBM, which helped measure the new density.

Sony said it wants to advance the thin-layer deposition technologies and commercialize the new tape, but it did not say when such a product could appear on the market.

According to the Tape Storage Council industry group, tape capacity shipments grew by 13 percent in 2012 and were projected to grow by 26 percent last year.

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Tim Hornyak

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