Magazine article Science News

A New Brew for the Computer Industry

Magazine article Science News

A New Brew for the Computer Industry

Article excerpt

Many tea drinkers know about tannins, those pesky molecules that stain teeth and ceramic mugs. Last year, John L. Lombardi, a green tea drinker, learned that makers of hard-disk drives were thirsting for a nontoxic polishing liquid that would cling to ceramic grains and flush them away.

"A light went off in my head," recalls Lombardi, a materials scientist and head of Ventana Research, a small surface-chemistry laboratory in Tucson. Starting with green tea extract, he and his Ventana colleagues brewed up a concoction of chemically modified tea, synthetic proteins, and an abrasive to be used to finely polish, or lap, the aluminum-titanium-carbide ceramic slivers that become read-write heads. Tests now indicate that the fluid performs as well as a conventional polishing liquid, yet acts more quickly. That speedup could boost productivity while reducing the rate at which lapping equipment wears out, Lombardi says.

Read-write heads employ magnetic fields to sense or record bits of information on a spinning disk. Manufacturers typically lap heads to eliminate irregularities larger than a nanometer tall, or about the height of a stack of 10 hydrogen atoms. Such exquisite smoothness ensures that the heads will sail freely over underlying disks. Tools for the polishing usually include rotating plates covered with diamond grit and a slippery polishing liquid

Last week, an unnamed hard-drive maker collaborating with Ventana completed the first tests of the new lapping fluid on production equipment. …

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