Though flash-based SSDs are growing in popularity, a great number of systems still rely on magnetic hard drives to store data. So many in fact that processing and storing the data on the all of the drives now accounts for a significant fraction of the world's energy consumption. Researchers at the University of York though have recently made a discovery that could reduce energy costs, without increase monetary costs.
Writing data to a magnetic drive usually requires applying a magnetic field to it, which uses a fair amount of energy. Some time ago all-optical thermally induced magnetic switching (TIMS) was discovered, for some rare-earth-transition-metal alloys call ferrimagnets. As the name suggests, it is possible to switch the magnetic state of those alloys using a laser pulse. As the laser pulse uses less energy than the magnetic field, the result would be a more efficient drive. The catch is that the alloys are prohibitively expensive. What the York researchers have discovered is a synthetic ferrimagnet comprised of two ferromagnetic materials, with a non-magnetic spacer sandwiched between.
Without the reliance on rare metals, this discovered could help bring all-optical TIMS to storage technology, cutting energy costs.
Source: University of York