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Sony unveils magnetic tape tech which will produce 185TB capacity cartridges

Sony's boffins have managed to develop a new magnetic tape which has a record-breaking recording density, and a capacity which is over 70 times greater than conventional magnetic media.

Sony is claiming the world's highest areal recording density with a figure of 148 gigabits per square inch, as measured by IBM. That will give rise to a storage capacity 74 times that of current magnetic tape media according to Sony's best estimation, and will mean that each cartridge can hold 185TB of data. That's a lot of space for backups (and yes, tape is still used by organisations for backups and archiving).

The feat has apparently been achieved by honing sputter deposition, a vacuum thin film forming technology that produces multiple layers of uniformly oriented crystals on a polymer film 5 micrometres thick (or indeed thin).

However, with the sputter method, roughness on the surface of the soft magnetic under-layer causes problems with non-uniformity in the orientation of the crystals, which in turn means variations in the size of the magnetic particles in the layer on top of the under-layer, and this flaw was the major roadblock to any potential increase in recording density.

The trick, Sony notes, is that it has developed a soft magnetic under-layer with a smooth interface – and also optimised the sputter conditions – which has minimised any variations in crystal uniformity, and allowed for the big step forward in recording density.

Sony hopes its new tapes will help to tackle the growing storage needs of big data, and of course the large-scale backup market.

In a press release, the company said: "Sony will continue to work towards commercialising this next generation tape storage media, as well as the development of increasingly advanced thin layer deposition technologies based on the sputter method, with the aim of increasing recording densities even further."