Seagate plans to increase disk capacity by a factor of ten with new technology it has just patented, meaning your computer hard drive could soon be storing as much as a terabyte.

The Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR) technology includes nanotube-based lubrication to allow the read/write head of a disk get closer to the surface, and so store more information.

The smaller the data recording areas (bits) on a disk surface the more of them that can be packed together, and subsequently the greater the capacity of the disk. But reading and writing ever-smaller bits requires the read/write head to come closer to the disk surface, requiring a tough lubricant layer on the surface.

Storing data properly in extremely small areas requires the magnetic material to be heated during the writing phase, but this causes the lubricant film deposited on top of the magnetised recording layer to evaporate.

Seagate's patent resolves this problem by having a reservoir inside the disk casing that contains nanotube-based lubricant. Some of this is periodically pumped out as a vapour and deposited on the surface of the disk thus replenishing the evaporated lubricant. The vapour deposition process is similar to that used in the production of CDs and DVDs.

Seagate anticipates that the new technology could increase disk capacity by a factor of ten, making possible a 600GB 1.8-inch drive, a 1.46TB 2.5-inch drive, and 7.5TB Barracuda 3.5-inch drive. The lubricant reservoirs will be built to last the life of the disk.

The Seagate patent can be read here. Seagate has not given a date by which we could expect to see the technology appear in real products.