The next generation of CASSETTE: Sony develops tapes that have 3,700 times more storage than a Blu-ray disc


Storing data on tapes may seem a little antiquated, since the invention of CDs, cloud services and other forms of digital storage, but it is still used by many businesses and archives around the world. 

And now, by tweaking how it produces this magnetic tape, Sony has created a way to boost the potential of the iconic material to not only match its digital rivals, but also surpass them.

The Japanese firm has developed tape for businesses that can store up to 185TB of data – 74 times the capacity of traditional tapes and the equivalent of 3,700 Blu-rays.

It could, in theory, be used by anyone but has been designed specifically for organisations that need to store large amounts of data.

Magnetic tapes with a coating of magnetic powder are currently used as the mainstream form of tape storage media – with a recording capacity of 2.5TB.

Previously, if companies wanted to increase this capacity, they’d need to use technology to shrink the size of the magnetic particles on which data is stored.

This can be a tricky and expensive process, and in many cases, isn’t cost effective.

Sony’s new tape consists of a soft magnetic underlayer with a smooth surface created using a vacuum thin film forming technique called sputter deposition. 

Sputter deposition involves shooting argon ions onto polymer film to produce layers of extremely fine crystal particles in a uniform pattern, just 5 micrometres thick.  

Until now, when the sputter method was used to create this layer of magnetic particles on a polymer film, it changed the shape and layout of the crystal and made the underlayer feel rough.

This variation in size restricted how much data could be stored on it. 

By optimising the sputter technique, as well as developing a smooth, soft magnetic layer, Sony made it possible to shrink the crystals while keeping their shape.  

When Sony’s magnetic tape was measured it was found to have a recording density of 148GB per square inch – equivalent to approximately 74 times the capacity of traditional coated tape media used for data storage.

This is also five times the 35TB capacity of the cassette developed by FujiFilm and IBM in 2010. 

Sony said it will continue to work towards getting this next-generation storage ready to sell, as well as develop the technology to make it even more efficient, ‘with the aim of increasing recording densities even further.’

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