Scientists in Singapore have developed a surprising use for ordinary salt that they say could help deal with the increasingly quantities of data that companies and individuals are creating and storing.
Current hard disk manufacturing technology could soon reach its limits Photo: ALAMY
Their new manufacturing process, involving simple sodium chloride, can boost the capacity of computer hard disks by six times.
The discovery was made by Singapore's national research institution the Agency for Science Technology and Research, in collaboration with the National University of Singapore and the Data Storage Institute.
The agencies have "developed a process that can increase the data recording density of hard disks to 3.3 Terabits per square inch, six times the recording density of current models", they said in a statement.
The addition of sodium chloride to the manufacturing process meant the pattern of bits – units of information – on the surface of each magnetic disk was neater, allowing more to be crammed in.
The salt improved the resolution of the electron beam used to “print” the bits.
"It can give you a very high contrast. We are now able to see fine lines that would normally be blurred out," said Dr Joel Yang, the scientist who led the development.
"Otherwise you can try your best to pattern these bits very closely but they will all end up being gigantic blurred out blobs.”
According Dr Yang, the new process could be commercialised by 2016, "when the current techniques run out of fuel and (hard drive manufacturers) need to find alternate methods" of increasing data storage space.