Hitachi stresses chemistry on perpendicular drives

Company doesn't have the first perpendicular drive on the market, but it does have one with a slightly different recipe.

Hitachi Global Storage Technologies isn't the first company to come out with a perpendicular hard drive, but it claims it has a better chemistry set.

The storage division of the Japanese giant has announced its 160GB Travelstar 5K160, Hitachi's first perpendicular hard drive.

The drive sports a read head--sort of like a needle on a phonograph arm--composed of iridium, manganese, chromium and a minute amount of ruthenium. Iridium and manganese anchor the read head's internal magnet in a more stable fashion than the platinum-manganese alloy often used in drives from other manufacturers, Hitachi said.

As a result, the read sensor is less prone to be thrown off by heat, cold or shock, forces that become magnified in effect as the read head and other components shrink in size. (Hitachi also uses the iridium formula on its standard drives.)

Chromium adds corrosion-resistance, while the ruthenium helps the sensor remain stable. The sensor is then baked in a high-temperature oven to orientate the magnetization.

Additionally, the media in the drives is based around improved chemical alloys and a new deposition process.

In the end, the changes let the company increase the areal density--or the amount of data that can be squeezed into a finite space--without increasing the risk of errors.

Although one of the early proponents of perpendicular storage, Hitachi is coming to the market later than some of its competitors. Seagate has already announced a variety of different perpendicular drives for notebooks, servers and desktops. Still, few perpendicular drives have actually shipped to computer and device makers.

The perpendicular term refers to the fact that the drives can store data vertically on their media rather than on a flat plane, which increases the amount of storage.

Hitachi also released another "Schoolhouse Rock"-like cartoon to go with its drive. First there was "Get Perpendicular," which combined elements of "Soul Train" and Abba's "Dancing Queen"; then came the urban realism of "."

In the latest, "License to Read," one Agent Read gets coated with iridium and other materials and goes off to wallop his archenemy in a James Bond-like infomercial. The cartoons have developed a small following.

The Travelstar 5K160 will go on sale in the U.S. this summer and sell for $269. A 1.8-inch drive for consumer electronics and small notebooks utilizing the same technology will appear in the latter half of 2006.