An old 4GB (single platter) PATA hard drive.
Hard drive space can be sextupled with a pinch of salt, researchers suggest. (Photo Credit: CC BY/walknboston/Flickr)

According to a group of engineers at Singapore’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE), a pinch of chemical-grade table salt can increase hard drive storage capacity by as much as six times. Rather than storing data in disorganized clumps, Dr. Joel Yang and IMRE researchers are adding sodium chloride to make data storage possible at higher resolution than ever before.

A dash of salt for all your data

Using salt to increase hard drive capacity could soon revolutionize personal and business computing, notes Wired. Even though Yang and company are using data clusters two to three nanometers larger than is standard, the highly organized patterns make greater data storage possible.

“It’s like packing your clothes in your suitcase when you travel,” said an IMRE spokesman. “The neater you pack them, the more you can carry.”


Through a process called e-beam lithography, data is encoded at nanoscopic size onto the magnetic storage disk inside a computer’s hard drive. With sodium chloride – the chemical formula for table salt – IMRE has discovered that the nanostructures upon which data is written can be packed much more densely without the use of expensive equipment.

As much as 3.3 terabits of data (422.4 gigabytes) per square inch — approximately six times larger than the current standard — is possible using the new method, which Yang refers to as “nanopatterning.”

More hard drive innovators take a bow

This is not the first innovation in hard drive science has occured in recent years. French and German researchers Albert Fert and Peter Grünberg won the 2007 Nobel Prize in physics for the development of Giant Magnetoresistance (GMR). This process involving weak magnetic charges can produce noticeable increases in electrical current, even in very small hard drives. Fert and Grünberg’s research helped pave the way for the smaller hard drives found in such consumer gadgets as the iPod.

How a hard drive works


Institute of Materials Research and Engineering:

PC World:

Sodium chloride Wiki:


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