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Lubomyr Romankiw

Magnetic Thin-Film Storage Head

U.S. Patent No. 3,908,194
Inducted in 2012
Born April 17, 1931 - Died June 27, 2024

IBM researchers Lubomyr Romankiw and David Thompson invented magnetic thin film storage heads in the late 1970s, creating new designs for both read and write heads along with a new fabrication process. The thin film head dramatically increased storage density, greatly decreased disk size and drastically decreased cost of magnetic storage.

The new head designs were beyond the fabrication capabilities of the 1970s. Achieving a practical head required the invention of plating-through-mask technology, new plating electrolytes, a new plating cell design, high aspect ratio lithography, new magnetic material with appropriately tailored properties, and a photoformable thermosetting dielectric. These inventions were integrated into the fabrication process for the first commercial head and have been utilized in subsequent advances such as magnetoresistive heads (MR), giant magnetoresistive heads (GMR), and perpendicular recording (PR). Thin film technology is in virtually every disk drive marketed today.

Originally from Ukraine, Romankiw received a B.Sc. from the University of Alberta in Edmonton and his M.Sc. and Ph.D. from MIT. He joined IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center in 1962. He was named an IBM Fellow for his contribution to magnetic data storage technology and received numerous national awards and honors including the prestigious Perkin Medal. After the thin film head work, Romankiw extended the new technology to many other electronic components. His later activities included inductors for on-chip power conversion and electroplated photovoltaic solar devices.

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