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Nanotube Lube Replenishment for Massive Drives 144

Posted by timothy
from the elderly-celebrity-spokespeople-sought dept.
PetManimal writes "Techworld reports that Seagate has just patented something called 'Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording,' which features nanotechnology and could lead to a 1.46TB 2.5-in. drive. The article says 'Storing data properly in extremely small areas requires the magnetic material to be heated during the writing phase, but this causes the lubricant film deposited on top of the magnetized recording layer to evaporate. Seagate's patent resolves this problem by having a reservoir inside the disk casing that contains nanotube-based lubricant. Some of this is periodically pumped out as a vapor and deposited on the surface of the disk, replenishing the evaporated lubricant.'"
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Nanotube Lube Replenishment for Massive Drives

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  • good idea! (Score:5, Funny)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @12:41PM (#15668511)
    Some of this is periodically pumped out as a vapor and deposited on the surface of the disk, replenishing the evaporated lubricant.

    Hey, I could use some of this this! Oh wait...it says disk...
  • by LordPhantom (763327) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @12:41PM (#15668512)
    Lube replenishment?
    For.... massive drives?
    Some headlines just write themselves. And don't mod me down, you were thinking about how cool it would be to have a peripheral that would do that - this is slashdot, don't lie!
  • KY (Score:3, Funny)

    by tedgyz (515156) * on Thursday July 06, 2006 @12:41PM (#15668516) Homepage
    Can I get the KY Jelly version to store all my pr0n?
  • Drives needing lube? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CRiMSON (3495) <crimson.unspeakable@org> on Thursday July 06, 2006 @12:43PM (#15668536) Homepage
    I wonder if this will lower the mean time to failure of these drives? I currently have some old 9G scsi disks that have been running daily since 1998/1999 and still work flawlessly. How much lube are they putting in these drives? It seems to me this could be bad thing(tm) put enough lube in for 3 years, and every 3 years sell new drives.
    • I wonder if this will lower the mean time to failure of these drives? I currently have some old 9G scsi disks that have been running daily since 1998/1999 and still work flawlessly. How much lube are they putting in these drives? It seems to me this could be bad thing(tm) put enough lube in for 3 years, and every 3 years sell new drives.

      From TFA:

      The lubricant reservoirs will be built to last the life of the disk.

      Well, duh. I guess you could say "The disk will be built to last the life of the lubricant reser

      • I guess the question I have is this.

        The harddrive is a sealed device, so if your evaporating some spot on the disk, why couldn't you inversely just have a condensator that would collect the evaporated lube to replenish their little lube reservoir?

        Here's a better question... why don't we just fucking give up on harddisks with moving parts and move to solid state, like we should have about 5 years ago! Yeah, I know you can buy solid state disks for huge money, I'm not interested in that. I want a 100TB nano
        • The harddrive is a sealed device
          Ah, but it's not. It needs to operate at various altitudes so there needs to be a way to allow the internal pressure to adjust since the head floats on a cushion of air. There's a small, carbon filtered hole in the disk's case (usually beside a sticker saying "Do not cover")

          Why don't we just fucking give up on harddisks with moving parts and move to solid state
          We are. It's just taking some time.
    • by Gat0r30y (957941)
      Seagate has a 5 year warranty on every drive. It is intended that the lube will last the life of the drive.
    • Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. It's not going to work very well. You are going to run out of lube and the drive is going to fry. That isn't a good thing. Since it's based on the writing to the drive, those programs which make sure to clear your data by writing random stuff to your drive a few times will actually lower the ability of the drive to function. You could have a virus which destroys your drive by writing to a drive all the time. Or you could do that yourself before the warrenty fails.

      This wi
  • Another patent!
    • Re:Yay! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LWATCDR (28044)
      Hardware patents == O.K.
      Software patents == evil.

      At least to the OSS community.
  • by bo0ork (698470) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @12:44PM (#15668547)
    So when we see the warranty on those disk, it won't be 1 year, it'll be 8760 hours. I mean, talk about throw-away society. These things would come with probably extremely toxic non-refillable containers that are guaranteed to be emptied out at the most inopportune moment.
    • These things would come with probably extremely toxic non-refillable containers that are guaranteed to be emptied out at the most inopportune moment.

      You're not thinking like a businessman. The drives will be cheap - cheaper than the competition, anyways. Enough to make it look like a good deal, anyways. It's the semimonthly proprietary branded cartridges of drive oil that will cost a small fortune...

  • by Anonymous Coward
    so when the resivoir empties, your 1.5TB of data evaporates with whatever is left over of the nanotubes?
    • You didn't even need to RTFA!
      The summary says the write process needs the super-heating that evaporates the lube, not the read process. I'm sure that Seagate will include some kind of sensor in the reservoir, so when all the lube is gone, the hard drive stops writing and only reads. That way you won't lose 1.5TB of data... which would suck
      • I'm sure that Seagate will include some kind of sensor in the reservoir, so when all the lube is gone, the hard drive stops writing and only reads. That way you won't lose 1.5TB of data... which would suck

        Right. You'll just suddenly have an inoperable system. Presuming of course that your OS is running on that hard drive. Still not a great situation. Of course, it doesn't really matter because your house already caught on fire during the superheating process.

    • FTFA: "Seagate Technology Inc. plans to increase disk capacity by 10 times with new technology it has just patented, meaning a computer hard drive could soon be storing as much as a terabyte of data."

      Now, I have a crappy little 250 gig I've been using for years. 10x 250 = 2500. How does TFA say it can increase the disk capacity 10x and get 1 tb? Increase the max theoretical storage?
  • by The Living Fractal (162153) <banantarr@nOSpaM.hotmail.com> on Thursday July 06, 2006 @12:47PM (#15668573) Homepage
    .. But, after reading about this days ago, I was under the impression the lubricant itself wasn't 'nanotube based' but rather was distributed across the platters in a controlled fashion via nanotubes. Insofar that the tubes themselves only allow a certain, small, amount of the lubricant to escape and only when the absence of lubricant on the surface produces enough differential pressure to allow it.

    And, incidentally, the ten year life of the lubricant reservoir should be sufficient IMHO. I can't imagine in ten years we'll still be using the same hard drives anyway. I think Seagate is banking on it.

    TLF
    • Oh good, at least one person is actually talking about the article. Do you have a link to whatever it was you were reading a few days ago?

      I should think that 10 years would be enough, assuming capacities keep going up at about the same rate they have been. However, is this is average usage, or heavy? I tend to give my hard drives a pretty heavy workout, and if that cut the time down to 5 years, I'd be pretty upset.
      • by The Living Fractal (162153) <banantarr@nOSpaM.hotmail.com> on Thursday July 06, 2006 @01:16PM (#15668860) Homepage
        http://www.tgdaily.com/2006/07/04/seagate_leaky_dr ives/ [tgdaily.com]

        TG Daily a few days ago.

        Perfluoropolyether is the lubricant. And it's not 'nanotube-based' at all. It's delivered via the tubes.

        From the article: "Vapor PFPE also surrounds the platter. As the drive spins, areas of the platter will get hot, which will wear out the lubricant. The vapor PFPE deposits on the platter to replace the worn out lubricant. The "condensing" vapor lowers vapor pressure which then draws out lubricant from the CNTs until the pressure is equalized."

        It does say the reservoir will provide ten years of 'practical' use. For someone who uses their hard drives a LOT (maybe someone without enough RAM? :)) I could see this lasting only 7-8 years. Still quite a while IMHO.

        TLF

        • Thanks for the linkage & the good info. Good stuff. I saw some fluff pieces of it on regular news sites & they seemed to be too busy drooling over the word "nano" to deliver any real substance.
        • Perfluoropolyether is the lubricant. And it's not 'nanotube-based' at all. It's delivered via the tubes.

          Hmm... That's interesting. Before I read your post I was imagining it was more like little trucks
          driving up to the disk and dumping tubes all over it. But it's the tubes that deliver this lube eh?

          Trucks. What was I thinking?
        • I dont understand....

          In order for condensing vapour to lower the vapour pressure in a manageable way, the unit would need to be sealed. If it's sealed then why cant the initially vapourised lubricant be re-deposited and recycled?

          PS - I know you can have local vapour pressure changes without a sealed environmant, but if the drive was ventilated as per normal then you'd get a nasty lubricant loss every time the drive heated and cooled (started and stopped) - the vapour would be pumped out of the vent hole.
    • And, incidentally, the ten year life of the lubricant reservoir should be sufficient IMHO. I can't imagine in ten years we'll still be using the same hard drives anyway.

      Remind me to tell that to my DEC RA82 I have at home. ;-)
      • Was that one of the monstrosities that used bundles of coax cables as interconnects? Or were those an even older series of drive?

        I remember seeing a DEC system once and it used a lot of odd connectors and runs of coax between the drives and the processors...I'd never seen them before, and never since.
        • Was that one of the monstrosities that used bundles of coax cables as interconnects? Or were those an even older series of drive?

          It's one of "those" drives yes. ;-)

          Actually that drive is capable of using the thick "licorice strap" style cables as well - which is how mine is connected.

          However at >10A to spin the drive up I'm currently not turning the platter even though I could if I used the one outlet in my basement like I did to test it.

          But I'll tell you - there's nothing like the sound of those
    • These are 1998 vintage Sun 9G and no-name 9G ATA drives. Still running. Many more 1999-vintage 9G's out there, maybe 5% of our total. Still useful for such clusterable "applicance" applications as DNS servers. Nevertheless, when the machine dies (more likely due to a 99-cent CPU fan locking up) we just chuck the whole machine.

      Considering that the latest drives are far more reliable than those old crappy things, a finite 10-year life for a disk drive is definitely Planned Obsolescence for Filling Up Landfill
      • Perhaps it would behoove Seagate to offer a lubricant replenishment program for the drives. I'm not sure it would be that difficult to do, but here is some info about PFPE:

        PFPE lubricants aren't all that dangerous. A quick check of the Brayco PFPE lubricant used industrially shows a DOT health hazard risk of 3. Which means the product does pose a moderate health risk but can be handled without problem as long as you use the correct PPE (personal protective equipment) such as goggles and gloves and adequa
      • Actually, the superior cooling found in older, expensive server machines usually meant longer mean-times between failure for them. My workplace has an old Compaq Proliant server (the first real "server" they ever bought, in fact) that still runs great, even though the drives in it and everything else in it is circa 1997-98. They took it out of production about a year ago, when they got new P4 rack-mounted hardware ... but I fired it up, loaded Linux on it, and was going to use it as a web proxy server jus
  • Doesn't this mean that your drive fails when it runs out of lube (and therefore you have to replace the drive)?

    I mean, I don't know how many people are going to want to take their hard drives in for the equivalent of an oil change or a fill-up every few months or once a year. We've had cars for 100 years and some car owners still don't understand you have to change the oil every some-odd number of miles. On the other hand, we've had computers for 20 years and some people still think that the computer h
    • Call me crazy but I thought drives were sealed air-tight (or close to it.) Where exactly would the lubricant go if it evaporated off the platter?

      My initial impression was that the lubricant was re-collected as it condenses similarly to the oil pump system of a vehicle, but that's just a completely unscientific guess. If that's not the case and the lubricant becomes completely unusable as it evaporates off, does this mean that now there will be a buildup "gunk" in the drive?
      I'm all for new storage technologi
      • I am pretty sure that hard drives are not, in actuality, sealed air tight.

        As evidence, if you look at most hard drives you will see small vent holes (usually easily visible because of the warnings not to cover them). I can only assume these exist to keep the pressure inside the drive case equal to the outside air pressure -- so that they don't crack or deform when taken to various altitudes, for instance.

        How they accomplish this without allowing moisture in, I'm not entirely sure. Filtering dust out wouldn'
        • As far as air pressure goes, there ARE vent holes in the drives, and a small (about 1 cm square or so) filter to filter the air. The air pressure inside is equal to the air pressure outside. As far as moisture goes, that's why you want to let a drive acclimate to the air temperature that it will be powered up in. If, for instance, you bring a laptop in from the trunk of your car when it is 30 degrees outside, it is ALWAYS a good idea to let it sit for 3-4 hours, if not longer, before you turn it on. Let
  • Vaporware? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Gates82 (706573) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @12:49PM (#15668596)
    No release date yet, so can we classify this as vaporware?

    --
    So who is hotter? Ali or Ali's Sister?

  • So what happens when your reservoir runs out of nanotubes and can no longer replenish the lube in the drive? You have to buy a new one? I mean, I'm guessing they can put enough nanotubes in there to last longer than the other drive components in the common case, but this could still be a problem.

    Sounds like it would be great for Seagate, since their drives could actually expire at a set time, but maybe not so great for consumers.
    • It depends what you use it for. Great for archives and other infrequent write operations. Not so great for swap space, OLTP databases, etc.

      In any case, I can't think of any hard drive that I haved kept in active use for 10 years.
      • I can!

        I used to work at an ISP that has atleast 3 SCSI HDD's there that have been spinning non-stop (sans power outages) since 1993. They are still in production too, which is insane. But, thats not my problem anymore. :)
    • This will rapidly create a new DIY lube-refill industry to parallel the ink kit method.

      In fact, the ink-refill-kit people should band together, form a cabal, and get a business process patent ASAP!
  • Do you think it will help speeds if I lube my internets before I stick them in the tubes?
  • This could spawn a new industry. Our PC's are already going liquid-cooled. Now they'll burn oil too. How long will it be before Jiffy-Lube services both your car and your laptop every 2000 miles?
  • Yuck.... (Score:3, Funny)

    by tktk (540564) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @12:58PM (#15668688)
    Digital pron? Check
    1.46 TB? Check
    Lube Replenishment ? Check

    Ok, confession time. Who's already masturbating to this article?
  • no new business for jiffylube... tubes will be Life of System component (from the Patent)

    [0031] The lubricant reservoir 60 may deliver fixed vapor pressure of the saturant into the environment. One embodiment uses a nanoporous material which contains significant porosity and is composed of a non-reactive material. For example, the nanoporous material may comprise carbon nanotubes 70, as illustrated in FIG. 4. Typical dimensions for each nanotube 70 are from about 0.1 to about 10 nm in diameter D and fro

  • by cylcyl (144755) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @01:05PM (#15668742)
    everything starts to look like it needs a Nano Assisted Information Lubricant
  • by zymano (581466) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @01:06PM (#15668758)
    Is density really the problem ?

    We need FASTER access times.

    We need multiple read/write heads.
    • Smaller = Faster. You can do one of two things to make a HD faster, spin the platters faster, or increase density so more data is passing under the heads.
    • Is density really the problem ?

      We need FASTER access times.

      Density sells disks in high-street stores. Access times do not. If you want to improve disk bandwidth, you're probably rich and so you can stripe the data over multiple disks. It's a stupid answer but it's the bottom-line answer, so it's the one that the disk makers are interested in.

      If you want to improve latency, sorry, you're screwed. Hard disk latency hasn't changed in years, since it's based entirely on spin speed and that hit a practical physi

      • Is that why my Seagate 15K RPM disks (ST318451FC) are failing at what I consider to be an astronomical rate?

        MTBF has been observed to be around... Let's see.. 20 disks in three years out of 50 disks.. Umm. Anybody got a calculator?
        • This sounds about what I've seen from hard drives of all manufacturers in the last few years. It's got to the point where I really don't care about hard drive technology anymore. Once you get to around 100GBish, capacity becomes less important than random access time and reliability. Flash should start wining on both counts soon (and with flash, usually after it's failed you can still read from it, just not write to it). I managed to put a USB flash drive through the washing machine and the tumble dryer
      • Hard disk latency hasn't changed in years, since it's based entirely on spin speed

        No, it's based on how long it takes (on average) to move the read/write head to the right track and for the disk to spin so that the right point of the track comes under the head. While the most obvious way to reduce this time is to make the disk and head move faster, there's another way: use several heads per track.

        Suppose there were two read/write heads per disk face instead of just one, arrangeed so that they read the

    • Is density really the problem ?

      We need FASTER access times.

      We need multiple read/write heads.

      What we really need is a paradigm-shift. Something with non-moving parts, like solid-state storage [google.com], or holographic memory [google.com].

  • So telling users that they have to change their Hard Drive fluid isn't so flippant anymore. Bummer.
  • yes, you could use nanotubes for this. Or anything else with tiny holes in it, such as:

    a chunk of foam, or felt, leather, or a small hole,

    or just use a lubricant that evaporates at the right rate without needing any porous impediments.

  • The inkjet cartridge racket is invading our storage! Run away!
  • by Spez (566714)
    Are those Nanotubes like smaller internets?
  • There's now way in hell I'm going to bring my properly functioning hard drive to JiffyLube...

    I can see it now: "Well, sir, we can just do the nano-lube for $19.99. But when we had your drive open we noticed the, uhhh... tacheon field was misaligned. We can fix that for just $199.99"
  • by Coppit (2441)
    I thought the next limiting factor for hard drive densities was the limits of physics with respect to magnetic materials? So there's no need to get perpendicular [hitachigst.com]?
  • And everyone has been complaining about the limited number of write cycles of flash memory.

    Looks like the technogies are reach equivalence by making Hard drives worse !
    • Flash is improving with the problems of limited write cycles. WIth algorithms used for raid and disks I am sure you can make them fault tollerant too as the sectors begin to die off. I too have drives from 2000 that still work and it will be a shame to see them die sooner.

      Hybrid drives are the next big thing and Samsung announced the first last month here on slashdot with 256 megs of flash for portables. Microsoft is implementing a standard for them for Vista. Hibernation will go real quickly as well as acc
  • Eye no knot. (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by LWATCDR (28044)
    Eye do knot no why people can knot spell.
    Yes English spelling sucks but like inches, feet, and miles I am afraid we are stuck with them. Before anyone bashes the US for not going metric I have to tell you that I have seen miles, gallons, and pounds used in UK motorcycle magazines. And I bet you don't go to the pub of .5 liters of beer.
  • I know I'm a little dense, but where would the lubricant evaporate to?

    I mean the HDs built today are sealed to prevent dust and moisture from coming in. wouldn't it also prevent moisture from leaving?

    If the lubricant condenses to the lid, it would seem there would be a way to capture and recycle it. You shouldn't have to run out.

    Better yet let it run in a lubricant bath - then you avoid evaporation and application of it all together.

    -CF
  • What flavors do the lube come in?? I would like a cherry 1.5TB drive please...
  • How much power will the heating process consume? The 2.5" form factor for laptops is pretty meaningless if the drive is going to suck a lot of power and/or run as hot as hell.
  • Use a hammer! (HAMR get it!)
  • I think what we truely need is to get past the PCI, (Pci Express works but there has to be a better way. oh while your at it improve the battery so we can have endlesss power with little weight... Cold fusion would be great while your at it.
    • Firstly, what's the problem with PCI in relation to hard disk storage?
      Secondly, if you're so sure there "has to be" a better general-purpose connection standard than PCI-E, then could you tell us all: 1. Why you don't even know what it's called, and 2. Why we aren't already using it?

      I'll give you a clue, since you could use one badly: 1. It's called Infiniband [wikipedia.org], and 2. The hardware needed to justify using it over something sensible like PCI-E in the first place costs more than a house.
  • A few years ago, maybe more than a few years ago, Seagate had massive problems with the lubricant in their 20 MEG hard drives. In essence, the lube was slung to the edge of the platter where it built a little ridge and then the head would run in to it as it parked. This made the head "stick" and rendered the hard drive unreliable. Frequently if we held the hdd just right we could unstick it with a gentle rap on a table edge.

    The moment I read this article, I thought of the old stiction problem. Maybe this
  • by stewwy (687854)
    Whats the betting the lube runs out at the same time as the warranty. A bit like the sealed for 'life' bearings you get where life means ' until it breaks or wears out'. And being really cynical, a 'Server Quality' drive for twice the price has .00001 cents worth of extra lube.
  • I have worked with these lubricants. They have high vapor pressures and migrate all over all surfaces inside the volume where they are sealed. Probably good idea to have something equivalent to a saturated sponge inside the disk drive. Don't see the need for nanotubes. I would worry more about the motor bearings failing.
    • Don't see the need for nanotubes.

      WELL, if it doesn't have !!!$$$---NANOTUBES (C)(R)(TM)---$$$!!! in it then, well, who would want to buy something so obviously low-tech?

      Idiots will market it in such a way that other idiots will be unable to resist buying it.

The greatest productive force is human selfishness. -- Robert Heinlein

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