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Universities Create Storage Research Facility

Two universities in the United Kingdom, the University of Glasgow (Scotland) and Queen’s University of Belfast (Northern Ireland), have teamed up with 12 industry partners in order to create a facility that will investigate the capacity of storage devices. The industry partners include Seagate, IQE, Oclaro, CST Global and others.

A total of £8.1 million in funding was raised in order to finance the new facility (with £3m coming from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council), the full title of which is the Centre for Doctoral Training in Photonic Integration for Advanced Data Storage. It is hoped that it will train 50 PhD students in integrative photonics and the effect they have on information processing and data storage. These students will combine their time at university and within industry in order to get the best grasp on the topic.

“The initiative will hopefully make a significant addition to the field of photonic integration, exploring optical components such as lasers, modulators and multiplexers, and how they can be used to improve data storage efficiency,” writes Tom Phelan for

The universities think that magnetic recording assisted with heat is going to provide a great increase in the capability of storage. The process works by heating a tiny part of the disk, thus slightly changing its electromagnetic structure, in order to help with the writing of data.

Such research could also possibly be transferred to other areas of computing, like data transfer, although the universities have not specifically specified any plans.

The head of the University of Glasgow school of engineering, Professor John March, spoke about the effect that this will have on the IT industry at large; the mobile and cloud sectors, amongst others, are always in bag demand for the most effective storage devices. As such, it makes sense that industry partners have teamed up with the universities for this initiative – it benefits both of them at the end of the day, for academic research, future product lines and industry innovation.

“While much of personal computing and related electronic devices are moving to solid state drives, there is still increasing need for hard disk drives in personal usage in the form of back-up drives, personal TV systems and video recorders,” said March.

“The biggest growth sector is in... cloud computing, where data is stored remotely. Already, almost all of e-commerce and the internet rely entirely on data farms filled with large numbers of 'server' computers and these use hard disk drives to store commercial and personal information – everything from bank details to social media.”

Recent research has shown how a number of different storage technologies have been researched in order to solve the problem of big data. Helium, for example, has allowed hard drives to reach 1TB per 3.5-inch platter.

Although the cloud is on the rise, with some analysts predicting that it will account for the majority of digital storage within ten years, there is still the need for servers and physical storage to support such an infrastructure.


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