In hard disk drives (HDDs), Thermal Fly-Height Control (TFC) is used to control the head disk spacing for reading or writing data. In order to monitor the spacing and detect possible contacts between the head and disk, a resistive temperature sensor, called Touch-Down Sensor (TDS), is embedded in the slider near potential contact points of the slider against the disk. Understanding the mechanisms of heat transfer across the head-disk interface (HDI) is of major importance, because it is closely related to the design of HDDs, including lubricant flow and contact issues, especially for Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR) drives. In this paper, we conducted a series of experiments both on rotating and on non-rotating disks with TDS to find the cause of head temperature change and to validate the heat transfer theory based on phonon conduction. From the experiment, it is shown that air bearing cooling is not responsible for the cooling that occurs in the last nanometer before contact. Based on phonon conduction predictions, we should expect a decrease in slope of the non-contact curve as the spacing becomes less than 1 or 2 nm because of the strong increase in the heat flux due to phono conduction in this range.

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