Print 13 comment(s) - last by Warloque.. on Feb 18 at 1:58 AM

New high-speed flash memory may take over current flash technology

Solid-state memory is already a critical piece of technology as the demand for high-speed storage increases in computing and personal electronics to commercial grade and high-end products. Solid-state memory offers not only faster operations but also lower power requirements compared to current hard disk drives which contain mechanical parts and require more power to perform read and write activities.

Advancements in solid-state memory technology have brought us from the old days of the ROM technology to recent advances in NOR and NAND flash memory used in the most common personal media devices. So what's next for solid-state, non-volatile memory?

Intel and STMicroelectronics recently announced the delivery of the first Phase Change Memory prototypes (PCM) to customers for preliminary testing of this new technology. PCM is a type of memory similar to RAM which also includes the non-volatile characteristics of current flash memory technology. PCM has the ability to read and write data much faster while requiring less power to perform these operations.

The joint development program between Intel and STMicroelectronics has come up with this prototype PCM product codenamed Alverstone, a 128Mbit device manufactured using a 90nm process, which is aimed to take on current flash memory technologies such as NOR and NAND flash memory -- commonly used in USB thumb drives.

It's no surprise that current flash memory technology degrades over a certain amount of operations performed. Current NOR and NAND flash memory can usually withstand 100,000 and 1,000,000 cycles respectively before the media begins to degrade. But memory products using PCM technology have a much higher endurance with a tolerance of about 100 million cycles before the effects of degradation become evident.

One of the main downfalls of PCM is that degradation occurs under high temperatures which can cause data loss due to the way the technology writes to the contained cells, however, Intel and STMicroelectronics may be able to find a way to overcome the hurdle.

Current prototypes of Alverstone have shipped to customers such as cellular phone manufacturers and media device developers to test the implementation of such memory products in their devices. If they like what they see we may see the improved memory architecture in products soon.

Intel isn't putting all of its solid-state research into one technology.  Last week the company announce it provided funding to Nanochip, Inc., a startup company that is taking solid-state memory to a new level in capacity. Nanochip is working on a storage technology based on MEMS, or microelectromechanical systems, that is able to squeeze 125GB of storage on a square inch. Nanochip claims this technology scales much better than phase change memory and has a higher tolerance to thermal conditions where PCM can fail.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By phaxmohdem on 2/7/2008 6:11:25 PM , Rating: 3
One of the main downfalls of PCM is that it is prone to high temperatures

I was starting to get tired of lithium battery fire stories all over the tubes, now we finally get to switch it up a bit when peoples USB flash drives set their coat pockets ablaze.

RE: Yay!
By kkwst2 on 2/7/2008 6:45:32 PM , Rating: 4
I think this was poorly worded. I'm pretty sure that they really meant to say "susceptible" to high temperatures. It's not that it heats up, but that if you let it get too hot, you lose your data.

RE: Yay!
By bupkus on 2/7/2008 7:24:50 PM , Rating: 2
Dude, you spoiled it. The image of somebody's coat pocket suddenly ablaze from a memory chip was quite funny.

RE: Yay!
By Trisagion on 2/7/2008 10:18:11 PM , Rating: 5
Well, it is called 'Flash' memory...

RE: Yay!
By MrBungle on 2/8/2008 3:49:19 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, I think that's because it encourages one to expose his genitals in public.

Or is that just me? Am I weird?

RE: Yay!
By Warloque on 2/18/2008 1:58:26 AM , Rating: 2
hate to bust your buble but one its 4 bits per cell two they were able to lower the operating temps by changing the sandwiching arrangements so less power was used its all on the internet for ya to look at thats why it was late coming out

GPU company?
By ninjit on 2/7/2008 10:29:57 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think there's any relation, but wasn't the company behind the tile-based rendering system (PowerVR) called STMicroelectronics as well?

RE: GPU company?
By KnightBreed on 2/7/2008 11:08:58 PM , Rating: 2
You're close. Imagination Technologies is the company that designed the rendering system. Their chip designs were marketed under the PowerVR brand. STM licensed the PowerVR3 IP from ImgTec in the early 2000's. STM turned the IP into an actual chip known as Kyro.

I had a Kyro2. It was a pretty good card and lasted a couple years before getting too out-dated.

RE: GPU company?
By KnightBreed on 2/7/2008 11:41:22 PM , Rating: 2
I forgot, STM licensed other ImgTec IP too. I think the chip in the Dreamcast was a PowerVR2 design. STM also used the chips in numerous arcade systems.

RE: GPU company?
By MrPoletski on 2/8/2008 2:37:24 AM , Rating: 2
The dreamcast used a similar-but-different chip to the one found in the Neon250, which was the previous generation before the KYRO series and manufactured by NEC. It ran at 100Mhz vs 125Mhz but was about the same speed due to some sacrifices made in the silicon for the PC AIB version (powervr250). By the way, despte what Nvidia might want you to believe. This was the first ever graphics card capable of full scene anti aliasing. Though it was a bit slow to use except in really low rez, and D3D only, it was still the first.;)

KYRO and KYRO 2 (115Mhz and 166Mhz respectively, only difference) was manufactured by STMicro. STmicro sold its graphics division just prior to the release of the KYRO 3, which was more than just a speed bump. KYRO 3 was rumoured to bring a fixed function TnL unit and doubling the rendering pipes to 4... plus free multisample anti aliasing.

It never happened though, because STMicro refused to allow any bidders to use the propriatry technology STM had used in the design of the KYRO/KYRO II without royalties buyers were prepared to put up with. There was talk of (IIRC) Via buying them out and producing the chip, deal was almost reached. Ended up shelved, sadly.

This PowerVR fan is still waiting for SGX to arrive in a PC card (SGX is the DX 10.1 compliant series 5):)

What kind of Speed
By murphyslabrat on 2/9/2008 11:01:13 PM , Rating: 2
I have one question: the article mentions "the fast writes of NAND." Does anyone know what they are referring too, or what kind of speeds are typical of Intel/STM's prototypes so far?

RE: What kind of Speed
By flipsu5 on 2/10/2008 4:44:39 AM , Rating: 2
NAND has less than 10 ns write speed, based on >100 Mbps especially with the new ONFI standard. PCM typically has longer write and erase time, because it is based on heat not charge.

Looks Promising...
By teckytech9 on 2/7/2008 11:53:24 PM , Rating: 2
Just wanted to add that this article should have mentioned the pending independent semiconductor company to be named Numonyx.

I cant speak for all current SSD flash based solid state drives, but the thought of not being able to boot-up since the read/write cycles have approached 10K~100K cycles, is not very reassuring. Also, I hear that the possibility of data corruption of the current SSD flash disks will render them useless, and only recoverable by doing a format. Phase-change memory is promising and should address these issues in the future.

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain
Related Articles

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki