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J Nanosci Nanotechnol. 2007 Jan;7(1):1-12.

Tunneling magnetoresistive heads for magnetic data storage.

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Seagate Technology, Recording Head Operations, 7801 Computer Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55435, USA.


Spintronics is emerging to be a new form of nanotechnologies, which utilizes not only the charge but also spin degree of freedom of electrons. Spin-dependent tunneling transport is one of the many kinds of physical phenomena involving spintronics, which has already found industrial applications. In this paper, we first provide a brief review on the basic physics and materials for magnetic tunnel junctions, followed more importantly by a detailed coverage on the application of magnetic tunneling devices in magnetic data storage. The use of tunneling magnetoresistive reading heads has helped to maintain a fast growth of areal density, which is one of the key advantages of hard disk drives as compared to solid-state memories. This review is focused on the first commercial tunneling magnetoresistive heads in the industry at an areal density of 80 approximately 100 Gbit/in2 for both laptop and desktop Seagate hard disk drive products using longitudinal media. The first generation tunneling magnetoresistive products utilized a bottom stack of tunnel junctions and an abutted hard bias design. The output signal amplitude of these heads was 3 times larger than that of comparable giant magnetoresistive devices, resulting in a 0.6 decade bit error rate gain over the latter. This has enabled high component and drive yields. Due to the improved thermal dissipation of vertical geometry, the tunneling magnetoresistive head runs cooler with a better lifetime performance, and has demonstrated similar electrical-static-discharge robustness as the giant magnetoresistive devices. It has also demonstrated equivalent or better process and wafer yields compared to the latter. The tunneling magnetoresistive heads are proven to be a mature and capable reader technology. Using the same head design in conjunction with perpendicular recording media, an areal density of 274 Gbit/in2 has been demonstrated, and advanced tunneling magnetoresistive heads can reach 311 Gbit/in2. Today, the tunneling magnetoresistive heads have become a mainstream technology for the hard disk industry and will still be a technology of choice for future hard disk products.

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