French physicists at Institute of Materials Physics and Chemistry in Strasbourg claim they've made a breakthrough in ultra-fast data access that could could accelerate storage and retrieval of data on hard discs by up to 100,000 times. More info at PhysOrg.
In a study published in the specialist journal Nature Physics, a team led by Jean-Yves Bigot of the Institute of Materials Physics and Chemistry in Strasbourg employed a "femtosecond" laser, using ultra-fast bursts of laser light, to alter electron spin and thus speed up retrieval and storage.
"Our method is called the photonics of spin, because it is photons [particles of light] that modify the state of the electrons' magnetisation" on the storage surface, Bigot told AFP.
Data is retrieved with a burst that lasts just a millionth of a billionth of a second, said Bigot.