Mobile devices are starting to rely more and more on embedded NAND flash memory. The iPhone just got a bump in NAND flash capacity, the MacBook Air comes with an optional SSD (Solid state disk) flash drive, the Nokia N95 8GB uses, uh, 8GB of flash memory, and so on.
So, as more data gets shuffled through our devices’ memory caches, we’re going to need flash memory with ever-increasing performance envelopes. Intel and Micron’s joint venture, IM Flash Technologies, has made a new breakthrough in NAND flash memory technology. The company has created an 8GB SLC (single-level cell) high-speed NAND memory chip that is capable of 200Mbps read and 100Mbps write speeds. Compared to the current 40Mbps read and 20Mbps write speeds, the new technology represents a significant improvement.
The new high-speed technology complies with the (Open NAND Flash Interface) 2.0 specification, according to Micron. And, as prices on these memory chips start to level out, we’ll likely be seeing these high-speed jobbies start to hit mobile phones with a need for speedy memory.
In other news, Intel has teamed up with ST Microelectronics to create a new generation of flash memory. Their new “phase change” technology puts multiple data bits into a single memory cell – allowing for a doubling of current flash-memory density. The two companies have formed a joint-venture to develop and further market this technology – Numonyx.
The phase change technology works by changing the “bit-material” from a solid-crystalline state to an amorphous state. The different states would register a “bit” of 1 or 0 – the basics of binary language. Now, the breakthrough in phase-change memory technology comes in modulating the different phases of the “bit-material.” ST Microelectronics and Intel researchers have devised a solution that can differentiate between the solid state, amorphous state, and two intermediate states. With four phase-states (completely solid, less solid, slightly amorphous, fully amorphous), this new phase-change memory can handle double the capacity as current NAND flash technology.
Of course, all the breakthroughs in phase-change flash memory are well and good on paper. Getting this technology to market is an entirely different proposition altogether. Several companies have been playing with phase-change technology for some time, but none have produced any marketable tech. Let’s see if this new technology from Intel and ST Microelectronics will actually see the light of day.