As the magnetic recording density increases towards hundreds of Gb/in2, both the magnetic spacing and head-disk clearance decrease to < 10 nm. By one estimate, the magnetic spacing for 1 Tb/in2 is about 6 nm and the read width is ∼ 30 nm. There are at least two different approaches to achieving this. The first one is an extension of the traditional flying interface and the second is contact recording. In the former case one needs to be concerned about maintaining adequate clearance both at sea level and at higher elevation whereas in the latter case the wear and corrosion of the heads and disks may pose major challenges.

In the flying regime, an accelerated test to assess the relative integrity of the head-disk interface is described here. This is accomplished by monitoring the acoustic emission, capacitance or friction between the head and the disk as the ambient pressure is reduced. The pressure at which an abrupt change in the above signals takes place is called take-off pressure (TOP). This is also known as altitude avalanche measurement. With this method it is possible to compare different disk and head designs at the full velocity of the slider. We present results correlating the TOP with disk roughness and the influence of disk lubricant.

An example of how head-disk interference takes place in a disk drive will be given for an experimental 10 nm flying slider. The effects of radial flying height profile, take-off height of the disk, and the disk curvature on mechanical spacing are presented. The results of changes occurring on the air bearing surface and the disks after long term flyability test are discussed.

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