IBM, Fujifilm introduce magnetic tapes with 580TB storage capacity

The world is increasingly connected, and as a result, the amount of data that needs to be stored is reaching incredibly high levels. The worldwide data is expected to hit 175 zettabytes by 2025, representing 61% annual growth. Relying solely on SSDs and hard drives to store information is not enough, and this is why a technology that is over 60 years old as that of magnetic tapes is still actively used for backup tasks and, above all, is constantly evolving.

Now, IBM researchers, together with Fujifilm, have set a new world record in tape storage. A prototype strontium ferrite (SrFe) particulate magnetic tape developed by Fujifilm has achieved the world’s record 317 Gigabits per square inch recording density with magnetic tapes. This is approximately 27 times more than the areal density used in current state-of-the-art commercial tape drives.

The record was achieved in the tape running test, conducted jointly with IBM Research. In terms of storage potential, a single tape cartridge with this new areal density has the potential to store about 580 terabytes (TB) of data, approximately 50 times greater than the capacity of current cartridges. The capacity of 580TB is enough to store data equivalent to 120,000 DVDs and to 786,977 CDs stacked 944 meters high, which is taller than Burj Kalifa, the world’s tallest building.

The current generation of tape uses barium ferrite (BaFe) particles to coat the magnetic tape storage media, but this time the company used a new type of particle called strontium ferrite (SrFe). SrFe can be made into smaller particles with “superior properties,” meaning higher density storage on the same amount of tape.

The company’s unique technology to synthesize nano-sized particles is applied to control particle growth by adjusting the addition of trace elements and the conditions for blending raw materials. This way, the particle volume is reduced to less than 60% of that of the current BeFe magnetic particles to successfully produce ultra-fine SrFe magnetic particles suitable for coating on magnetic tapes.

To achieve this new record, the researchers also developed a new set of technologies, including a new low friction tape head technology that enables the use of very smooth tape media and a detector that enables reliable detection of data written on the SrFe media at a linear density of 702 Kbpi when it is read back with an ultra-narrow 29 nm wide TMR read sensor. New servo technologies made head positioning possible at a world record accuracy of 3.2 nm.

When the tape is being read, it is streamed over the head at a speed of about 15 km/h, and with our new servo technologies, we are still able to position the tape head with an accuracy that is about 1.5 times the width of an of DNA molecule.

Fujifilm will continue to develop and supply high-performance and high-quality media and services that satisfy customer needs and expectations to solve social issues.