The Technology and Innovation That Keeps Magnetic Tape Alive

- Posted by Author: DTC Marketing in Category: Data Tape |

When mentioning magnetic tape as a data storage medium, those unfamiliar with the recent advances in technology might envision cassette tapes, VHS tapes, or even round reel tapes of decades past. Unbeknownst to many, magnetic tape has not only made leaps and bounds in the digital storage space, but currently holds several advantages over other formats such as hard disk or optical disk storage. Magnetic tape is in the forefront of data archive technology with a recording density of 220TB per cartridge.

The list of advantages that magnetic tape storage has over rival storage formats is obvious. Primarily the shelf life of magnetic tape is far superior to that of hard disk. Magnetic tape can maintain its performance for more than 30 years if proper conditions are met, whereas hard disk is limited to no more than decade. 

As global organizations are rapidly generating data levels never seen before, the needs for archiving data are increasing faster than storage can be produced. Magnetic tape is widely considered to be the best method of archiving. The ratio of the archiving cost between the tape environment and the HDD environment is estimated to be 1:23, and the power consumption ratio is 1:290.

Other benefits of using magnetic tape include: lower operational costs due to reduced power consumption, the ability to store data in different locations, and the inexpensive cost due to mass capacity and fast production. So, what is it that gives tape all of these advantages? Simple, it’s how the tape is manufactured and the science behind the storage technology.

The science behind today’s tape technology

The main ingredient that makes magnetic tape what it is today is Barium Ferrite. Barium Ferrite is a new type of magnetic particle which can be greatly reduced in size to improve recording density without magnetic signal loss. Barium Ferrite was first seen in the sixth generation LTO tape (LTO6) and continued to be used in every following generation of LTO. Currently, Barium Ferrite is used with NANOCUBIC technology for a thin and uniformly coated magnetic layer. This technology is patented by Fujifilm.

Fujifilm nanocubic technology is a blend of 3 distinctive nano technologies.

First, their coating technology consists of an advanced precision coating process creating layers 5 times thinner than existing technologies. Second, their particle technology creates two unique new ferromagnetic particles that are both just tens of nanometers in size. These ferromagnetic particles are known as acicular ferromagnetic alloy and tabular ferromagnetic hexagonal barium ferrite. Last but not least, their dispersion technology. Fujifilm’s dispersion technology employs a specially formulated polymer binder, creating an even dispersion and uniform packed structure.

How does Barium Ferrite effect the storage capacity of magnetic tape?

Barium Ferrite gives magnetic tape a much higher storage capacity generation after generation. A regular metal particle is roughly 40 -100nm whereas Barium Ferrite is about 20nm*. The smaller size enables much higher recording density resulting in maximum capacity data cartridges.

How does Barium Ferrite effect the archival life of magnetic tape?

As science will tell us, oxidization is one of the main causes of data deterioration. Barium Ferrite is already oxidized and therefore has a much longer life compared to metal particles. While LTO drive systems are recommended for upgrade every 10 years, the road map is purely hardware manufacturer dependent, so longer archival life is favored.

How does Barium Ferrite effect the storage reliability of magnetic tape?

Barium Ferrite has superior frequency characteristics compared to metal particles resulting in a significant increase in storage reliability. Using the Barium Ferrite, LTO 6 is the first generation that can be written to and read even when the ability of the drive’s recording head has weakened after repetitive use.

High-capacity data storage warrants an extremely thin layer to record the data on. In contrast to (Advanced Super Thin Layer & High Output Metal Medi) ATOMM technology, the first technology to allow the production of submicron-scale thin metal coatings, Nano cubic technology permits the production of nanometer-scale ultra-thin coatings. To put into perspective, one nanometer is equivalent to one-billionth of a meter. 

Furthermore, nano-particle technology is used to create magnetic needle-shaped metal particles and plate-shaped barium-ferrite particles that are only a few tens of namometers in size. By using Nanocubic technology, data storage manufacturers can produce near silent data cartridges that boast superb storage characteristics, and capacities of one terabyte or greater.