How Can Hard Drive Manufacturers Store More Data? Ultracapacitors

November 17, 2017

Katie Willgoos


More Digital Content, More Storage is Needed

We are living in a fully digitalized era, where the amount of data we generate every day is huge.  

Actions like shooting a 60-second video, taking a bunch of high-definition pictures, and sending multiple text messages have become part of our everyday lifestyle. Today, the estimated amount of data we generate daily is 2.5 exabytes, the equivalent of 2,500,000,000 Gigabytes (2.5 Quintillion bytes = a lot of bytes). While the current amount of data being generated is enormous, the rate at which we are making it continues to increase.  Considering the total data stored in the last 4 years and the projected storage needs for the next 3 years, the demand is calculated to grow a solid 10x. From 4.4 zettabytes to 44 zettabytes in only 7 years. And this rate is continuing to grow. 

The question here is: where do we store all that data? As of now, most computer memory is in the form of hard drives. Hard drives can be found centralized, as they are in data centers, as well as distributed in different businesses and individual homes. Although the hardware can be both centralized and distributed, to store the amount of data predicted to exist in the world in 2020, equal to 44 zettabytes (not to mention the data that will be generated in future years), larger and larger dedicated areas will be needed to collect and store all the data. In 2017 the largest data center in the world has been inaugurated; “The Citadel” in Tahoe Reno, Nevada that covers 7.2 Million square feet of land. Will that facility and all other existing data centers and available hard drives be enough to store all data created daily for the coming year? Definitely not. 

What if we could store 10 times the amount of data in the same data center? What if our personal computer could store 5 to 10 times more files? What if our Cloud storage service provider can offer twice or more the space for half or less the price?

A novel approach to increase the amount of storage available per single hard drive is to increase the available physical space for additional digital memory storage directly on the electronic board (PCB, printed circuit board). This can be accomplished by switching the energy storage technology that has been used until now for power loss protection (PLP) with a new technology, Ultracapacitors. Currently tantalum capacitors are the most common and utilized energy storage installed on hard drives to guarantee power loss protection. This feature helps to properly save data in case of a power outage. But ultracapacitor technology is on the horizon and we expect they will enter the market as the predominant PLP solution.

New FastCAP Chip Ultracapacitor to Increase Digital Storage

The FastCAP chip ultracapacitor can be utilized to replace tantalum capacitors on the printed electronic board of hard drives. Using only two (2) of these tiny, thin profile, reflowable and board-mountable ultracapacitors can replace up to 30 tantalum capacitors, while providing an even longer power loss protection time. The space saved by removing multiple tantalum capacitors can be utilized to add additional memory chips on each board, reaching up to 10 times the storage available. In addition, FastCAP’s brand new chip ultracapacitor can be installed in millions of hard drives, since it is suitable for the highly automated reflow processes used in high-scale manufacturing. 

Ultracapacitors available on the market prior to the FastCAP chip capacitor have demonstrated high energy storage capabilities, superior to those of tantalum capacitors, yet have not been suitable for incorporating into memory storage PCB design. Tantalum capacitors have served as PLP energy storage because they make a thus far tolerable compromise between power & energy density and operational lifetime under the conditions the PCB is exposed to. The main limiting factor for devices with higher energy storage capacity has been temperature (it gets hot in computers, and memory is often right in the middle of it). The new FastCAP chip capacitor has the far superior energy density of ultracapacitors, and is the first ultracapacitor both packaged in a form factor appropriate for PCB design and with a suitable power rating for PLP. Further, it is the only commercial ultracapacitor that can stand up to the temperature conditions experienced in high-performance memory storage applications. As such the FastCAP chip capacitor can replace multiple tantalum devices, taking up less space and providing better performance.

Ultracapacitor technology will open the door to a new phase in digital memory, allowing storage of up to 10 times the amount of data in the same size data center as The Citadel in Nevada, as well as many other data centers around the globe. FastCAP is ready to lead this digital memory revolution.

Read more about this technology in our free white paper here: