About a month ago Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (HGST) reported that sealing helium inside hard disks can reduce power consumption by 23 percent due to a decrease in drag force, while also allowing up to seven instead of five platters in the same enclosure due to lower fluid forces, as well as cooler operation due to the higher thermal conductivity of helium as well as lower noise production due to a decrease in shear force.
Western Digital, which acquired HGST in 2011, plans to go ahead with helium-filled HDDs for servers and cloud datacenters in 2013, but rival Seagate doubts the viability of sealed helium HDDs. X-bit Labs talked to Seagate about helium in HDDs and got to hear that Seagate has done its own research into helium-filled HDDs and owns over 80 patents related to this technology. The company isn't interested in the technology though, Jon Piazza, senior manager of corporate communications at Seagate, admitted that while helium filling can solve a number of challenges, it creates new ones and adds extra risk.
According to Seagate, helium-filling is an expensive technology, the company is concerned about potential leaks as well as the manufacturing and materials cost. Seagate will continue to explore the technology's viability, but for the foreseeable future they will focus on new methods of magnetic recording like heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) and shingled magnetic recording (SMR).
"Helium can solve some internal technical challenges, but it also creates new challenges, like how to prevent leaks and bring down manufacturing and materials costs. Fortunately, we have been able to advance our drive technology and capacities without resorting to filling our drives with helium. We are also working on alternative technologies such as heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) and shingled magnetic recording (SMR) as potential ways to advance drive capacities in the future," explained Mr. Piazza.