Ruthenium Use: Hard Disks

Ruthenium's big break came in 2001 when IBM scientists discovered a revolutionary method to dramatically increase the storage density of hard drives. The key to IBM's breakthrough technology is a three-atom-thick layer of the ruthenium, sandwiched between two magnetic layers.

Known technically as "antiferromagnetically-coupled (AFC) media," the new multilayer coating was touted to be able to quadruple the data density of hard disk drive products - a level previously thought to be impossible at that time. That only a few atoms could have such a dramatic effect led some IBM scientists to refer the ruthenium layer informally as "pixie dust."