Floppy disks might have found a new lease of life. Matsushita Kotobuki Electronics, better known as Panasonic, has announced a technology that can increase floppy capacity more than 20 times.

In Japan the company will begin selling later this month a new disk drive that, it says, is capable of storing 32MB of data on a standard high density floppy disk - some 22.2 times that of its usual 1.44MB capacity.

To increase the data capacity of a standard floppy, Matsushita's system employs zone bit recording - a system used to encode data on to hard disks and optical disc systems that more efficiently uses disk space to record data.

The popularity of floppy disks, once king of the removable media market, has been waning in recent years as computers have increased in sophistication and users have found floppy disks' capacity a limiting factor to their use.

"With the FD32MB system, it enables people to find a use for all the floppies they had that they thought were useless," said Matsushita spokeswoman Yoko Fukusaki.

Powered by USB link only, the new drive also boasts support for 120MB and 240MB versions of the SuperDisk format and doesn't need an external power supply. Instead, it is powered from a USB (Universal Serial Bus) port to which it can connect.

Matsushita plans to put the drive on sale from February 23 in Japan. It is expected to cost less than 10,000 yen (US$87).