Remember when a ten-megabye disk drive was "all you will ever need" in a lifetime of computing? That was another time, another place. In today's image/info-hungry Internet economy ten megs won't even get you online. Ever on the move for "bigger, better, faster" IBM has created a revolutionary new type of magnetic coating which is expected to eventually quadruple the data density of current hard disk drive products to a level previously thought imossible. Until recently, the decay of data on magnetic media was considered normal and unavoidable over the lifetime of the product. This is due to the "superparamagnetic effect." When magnetic regions on the disk become too small, they predictably lose their magnetic orientation--the data--when densities reach 20 to 40 billion bits (gigabits) per square inch. The 100 gigabit density breakthrough was considered unattainable because of the superparamagnetic effect.

A few atoms of "pixie dust" as IBM scientists affectionately refer to the three-atom-thick layer of the element ruthenium--a precious metal similar to plantinum, sandwiched between two magnetic layers--will break the data storage industry's most impervious barrier. Technically known as"antiferromagnetically-coupled (AFC) media," the coating is expected to increase hard-diskdrive storage to 100 billion bits (gigabits) of data per square inch of disk area by 2003. AFC media is shipping in volume in IBM''s Travelstar notebook. IBM plans to use AFC Media throughout its disk drive product lines.

The increased densities made possible by AFC media will theoretiically expedite the industry trend toward smaller disk-drive form factors which consume less energy and stimulate the creation of new and more efficient digital-media and data-intensive applications.

"AFC Media is the first dramatic change in disk drive design amade to avoid the high-esnn-density data decay due to the superparamagnetic effect," said Currie Munce, director, Advanced Hard Disk Drive Technology at IBM's storage Technology Division and Director of Storage Systems and Technology at IBM's Almaden Research Center. "Our deep understanding of the complex physical phenomena of how the AFC media works enabled us to be first in the industry to ship AFC media in products, and we're working to extend this technology to perform maganetic recording at 100 gigabits per square inch and beyond."

With AFC media, 100-gigabit data density could allow 400 gigbytes (GB) desktop drives, or the information in 400,000 books; 200 GB notebook drives, equivalent to 42 DVDs or more than 300 CDs; or 13 hours of MPEG-4 compressed digital video--about eight complete movies--for hand-held devices, within two years.


Synchronously, as technology is wont to do, Nikon has just introduced the DN100 for industrial inspectors, pathologists and researchers who yearn for a facile digital camera with netowrking capabilities. The stand-alone, platform-independent DN 100 captures, transfers and monitors micro/macro images concurrently. Working toward the ideal of geographically removed individuals being able to work together, this revolutionary networking capability enables high resolution images to be viewed by many people in different locations, whether in multi-user facilities or across the globe--in real time with megapixel resolution.

Real-time information sharing is possible for product inspection results or microscopic images can be shared between labs and factories, hospitals or classrooms. Viewing conditions can be adjusted by receiving parties, and users may also perform network transfer of images to create databases. The DN 100 delivers color 1.3 megapixel resolution at a rate of 15 frames per second and bypasses the need to first record images before sharing them. Captured images can be tansferred to networked parties siumltaneously at 1 frame per 2 seconds through 1 frame every 10 minutes, making it ideal for time lapse situations.

When configured with an industrial microscope, accept/reject judgement from outside a clean room is possible. Configured with a stereoscopic microscope, examining products between a company's office and its inspection facility in a remote area is made possible by showing the sample and the product on the 2-image split-screen mode. With a biological microscope, pathologists and clinicians can confer with doctors for their opinions by displaing images of specimens over a network, or they can conduct online education on cytology and pathlogy exams. A video lens can be added for macro or other imaging needs.


Imagine 20 dental students peering into your mouth at once, while being taught the intricacies of root canal. UCLA's School of Dentistry students are doing just that with plasma display technology. To give students a better view and make the patient less traumatized, UCLA is using Pioneer's 40-inch plasma display panel (model PDP-V402) with a video camera pointed into the patient's mouth to permit students an in-depth view of dental procedure demonstrations.

To give students a close-up, 'hands-on" demonstration of dental procedure, UCLA used Pioneer's display above and behind the professor. The plasma display panel affords 160 degree viewing angles, perfect for the lecture-hall where many students must get the same information at one time. "It is imortant to the UCLA School of dentistry to provide our students with an educational experience that includes 'hands-on training," said Doctor Bill Yancey, assistant dean and director of continuing education for UCLA's School of Dentistry. "The plasma display gives each student, no matter where they are sitting in the classroom, the oportunity to "get in the mouth' of patients and really see the precision and technique required for dental procedures--without being all crowded around one patient.

VIdeo footage from the camera aimed at the patient's mouth is projected on the display panel, allowing professors to demonstrate critical dental techniques to the students. The large plasma display brings very high quality, biright images into the classroom, and is ideal for presenting interacive information in precise detail.

The four inch thick display panel, weighing less than 70 lbs, is dsigned for medical and training situations with limited space. The plasma display panels are light enough to be hung on a wall or from the ceiling or mounted on a cart. The space-efficient design of the panel enables it to be placed on a cart and transported readily from place to place, which increases the option for use at educational and medical facilities.

Barbara Kent, June 2001

Editor-in-Chief, Advanced Imaging Magazine