Data storage refers to the industry and field of study dedicated to producing media and devices for recording digital information. The first data storage devices were punched paper that provided basic machinery instructions, dating back to the 18th century. Rudimentary magnetic storage devices began appearing late in the 19th century and have since evolved to become the default format for modern computation.
Scientists involved in data storage research have consistently pushed the limits of storage capacity, packing more and more information into smaller and smaller spaces. The first disc drives, introduced in 1956, held only two thousand bits of data per square inch. As of 2011, that number has increased to over one trillion bits (one terabyte) per square inch on commercially available drives. This relentless drive towards greater information density has put data storage researchers firmly at the forefront of nanotechnology research. They require the latest instruments and technology to remain competitive – in both private industry and academia.
- Electron Microscopy
- Spinstand (head gimbal assembly testing)
- Unique Instruments
As explained above, data storage processes are some of the most demanding applications conceivable in terms of precision. As such, environmental concerns can present issues at every stage of the process: from fundamental research and development, to production, quality assurance, and product testing.
Vibrations can frustrate the nano- and picoscale measurements required for research and development, made using high precision analytical instruments such as SEM and AFM. During production, vibration can interfere with the polishing, sputtering, and lubrication of disks and the machining of the head assemblies. Extensive quality assurance steps are needed prior to shipping hard discs. The quality of finishes, reliability of heads, and the relative distance between the disk and head all need to be tested. This testing requires a high degree of repeatability and accuracy, so even minute environmental vibrations can stop this process.
Other sources of environmental frustration for those in the data storage industry include electromagnetic interference, acoustic disturbance, and thermal fluctuation. Often times, these sources of noise will need to be monitored and controlled. As such, it is advisable for data storage labs and facilities to have some sort of environmental monitoring capability or vibration measurement equipment on hand.