A study of three-body particle generation and subsequent pole tip recession in linear tape recording heads

Baogui Shi*, J. L. Sullivan, M. A. Wild, S. O. Saied

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The Pole Tip Recession (PTR) and transferred material (stain) are major causes of magnetic spacing losses in magnetic recording system. The recorded signal amplitude is only independent of the data being read if the spacing is zero. Thus, the level and more specifically the variation in head media spacing with device life must be a minimum to maximise signal output and minimised errors. It was the purpose of this research to isolate and identify the mechanisms responsible for pole tip recession using the Linear Tape Open format as an experimental platform, but the results have implications for any head where the tape-bearing surface is Al2O3/TiC (AlTiC). All experiments were conducted within a matrix of pressure and humidity, which encompassed the system operating extremes. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) was used to analyse the surface topography of the heads and monitor the development of PTR after 100, 1000 and 5000 passes of tape. Auger electron spectroscopy (AES) was employed to analyse the chemical changes on the surface of the heads after 5000 passes of tape and X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) was used to identify the chemical changes that occurred at the head surfaces. Optical Microscopy was employed to identify the head surface changes before and after wear. Environment was found to have a significant influence on the head/tape interface. Head wear and PTR were highest at high temperature and humidity. Wear between the head and tape was found to transform the surface layers on the TiC grains in the tape-bearing surface to TiO2. This process results in the production of TiO2 fragments that become trapped in the recessed pole tip region, acting as three-body abrasive particles. The presence of Ti on the surface of head thin film region confirmed that the three-body particles originated from the head AlTiC ceramic. The TiO2 (thickness and possible areal coverage) increased with the water content increase, wear of head increased in the high water content condition.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)633-640
    Number of pages8
    JournalTribology International
    Issue number6-7
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2005


    • LTO
    • Three-body particles
    • TiO
    • Tribology


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