Magnetic Storage Is Even Older Than You Thought
Posted on Friday, June 1, 2018
Magnetism has been at the heart of corporate IT strategies for decades. From reel-to-reel tapes to modern high-capacity spinning disks, the magnetic alignment of bits has always been essential to modern data storage.
But scientists have discovered that magnetic data storage has been existence for considerably longer- approximately 4.6 billion years longer.
An unusual storage medium
Obviously, this discovery is not data storage in the traditional sense– it doesn’t involve archaic magnetic tape for instance. Instead, it appears that Mother Nature used ancient meteorites formed during the Big Bang as a tool for recording data.
Writing in Nature Communications magazine, the researchers detail their observations of an iron-based material called ‘kamacite’ which was found embedded in crystals of dusty olivine. They discovered uniform magnetic alignment within the kamacite grains, which they believe was caused by nearby magnetic fields during the formation of the meteorite.
Speaking to the website phys.org, lead researcher Jay Shah said, “our study shows that magnetic fields that were present during the birth of our solar system are credibly contained within meteorite samples that we have in our collections. With a better understanding of these complex magnetization structures, we can access this magnetic field information and deduce how our solar system evolved from a disk of dust to the planetary system we see today.”
Shah’s study shows that iron with non-uniform magnetization states can retain magnetic recordings from more than 4 billion years ago. Even when heated to 300ºC, the kamacite grains retained their magnetic states.
Magnetic storage – it just won’t die
The fact that data stored magnetically at the very beginning of time can still be retrieved 4 billion years later is a testament to the longevity of magnetic storage. It is extremely unlikely that modern disk drives will last anywhere near as long as a meteorite– but magnetic recording will remain a very useful technology for data storage long into the foreseeable future.
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