Sunday, July 20, 2008

Japanese, Korean researchers may extend the lifespan of NAND flash

Scientists from the University of Tokyo and Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) claim they have successfully created a new flash NAND memory that can operate for hundreds of years.

In an e-mail correspondence with BetaNews, AIST confirmed it had created the new NAND memory, and said it hopes to have it out the door soon.

The NAND flash memory used today in such products as smartphones (including the Apple iPhone), UMPCs and other small notebooks, video game consoles, digital cameras, and solid-state drives (SSDs) are able to function for about ten years on average. However, that lifespan can be dramatically reduced when it's responsible for virtual memory or other similarly demanding tasks.

The new memory, its creators claim, can be programmed or erased more than 100 million times, with current flash memory only able to support around 10,000 total writes.

The lithography templates used to fabricate most NAND chips used today are as low as 30 nanometers, with the latest generation expected to be 20 nm. But some fabricators have stuck with 30 due to the stress the process places on the templates. The ferroelectric NAND flash memory AIST and University of Tokyo researchers are working on is 10 nm, and could likely be smaller after they are further along in development.

Japanese researchers hope to have their flash memory available on the market in the next few years.

Meanwhile, Sun Microsystems and Samsung are working together to create a new NAND flash memory device designed specifically for solid-state drives to be used for server applications. According to Samsung white papers, the single-level-cell (SLC) NAND flash is able to offer a 100x increase over traditional hard drives used today, when comparing number of data transfers per watt.

Although flash chips that are SLC-based tend to be faster than competing multilevel cell (MLC) devices, MLC can offer more storage at a lower price than SLC, which makes them ideal for notebooks and UMPCs.

Sun and Samsung hope to see their new "ultra-endurance" server memory make servers better suitable for video streaming, high-transaction data processing and similar tasks. Sun will implement the new NAND flash memory into select server and storage lines, but did not say when it plans to do so.

The demand for solid-state drives, especially in the enterprise, has increased due in part to the declining price of the technology. Research firm IDC estimates the global need for SSDs in the enterprise will reach 2.24 million units over the next four years.

  • Nanotube memory
  • HP develops new type of memory circuit
  • Samsung: Consumers, businesses to spark NAND flash rebound
  • Toshiba’s SSD-based notebooks double their capacity
  • How cool is that IBM supercomputer?