Scientists at Radboud University Nijmegem in the Netherlands have presented a laser-based hard drive technology. ARS Technica reports:
In tests, researchers at the university were able to transfer data to a magnetic hard drive using laser light at speeds of up to 40 femtoseconds per bit (a femto is a quadrillionth of a second). This is approximately 100x faster than our fastest current conventional drives and represents a potential breakthrough in hard drive technology. Numerous previous attempts have been made to utilize polarized laser light as a write mechanism, but all previous attempts have failed due to an improper mixture of magnetic alloys.
Even though the Netherlands team has taken a major step forward, it'll be years before we see an actual shipping product based on the use of a laser write head. The current housing for a laser capable of emitting a pulse just 40fs long would be approximately three foot square and draw up to a kilowatt of power. In addition, the 40-femtosecond pulse speed only represents the time required to write a single bit of data. Longer read/write transactions would be governed by speed rate at which the laser emitted pulses (approximately 80 MHz)..