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Intel and Nanochip team up to develop 100 gigabytes per chip

This article was syndicated from Tiago Marques' blog at SiliconMadness.com

Nanochip, Inc., a Silicon Valley startup, has managed to raise $14 million in funding from Intel Capital, Intel's global investment organization, for further development of the MEMS technology.

You read it right: gigabytes, not gigabits.

According to Nanochip (PDF), the technology isn't lithography constrained, allowing production of chips of more than 1GB in capacity, in plants that have already been deemed outdated by current standards.

The lack of lithography constraints means cheaper products, resulting in an opportunity to also replace flash memory, as the technology is also non-volatile.

Today's factories should be able to produce the first products, estimated at 100GB per chip, when the technology is expected to be unleashed for public consumption by 2010. The first samples will be available during 2009.

PRAM, or phase change memory, was expected to be the technology to replace flash in the coming years, since it is also non-volatile, while it is much faster than flash. As Intel found out over the last few years, PRAM doesn't seemed to scale so well, in regards to density, and still has some boundaries to overcome -- namely it's thermal principles of operation.

Nanochip's details of the technology are ambiguous at best, though what is known is that the company is working on hybrid micro-electric-mechanical -- the partnership with Intel suggests a PRAM connection too.  The company has described this as a very small platter coated in chalcogenide is dragged beneath hundreds of thousands of electrical probes which can read and write the chalcogenide.  Casual estimates put this sort of density at one terabit per square inch, or 125GB per square inch. 

The company has not disclosed access speeds. That's a place where PRAM is appointed to be the undisputed king of the hill, so it could limit applications of this type of technology.

For now it seems that the flash SSD drives are going to be replaced before they even reach mass consumption -- which is a good thing. The technology is expensive, doesn't provide a lot of storage space and is prone to failure, due to the low amount of write cycles available per cell. Flash is perfect for pendrives and resisting shock, not so good for regular, intensive, HDD usage.


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RE: Which is it?
By Oregonian2 on 1/28/2008 2:34:47 PM , Rating: 2
I think it's a clever way of mixing technologies, and it'll be interesting to see if it's cost effective.

If you haven't yet, go to their website and read about the basis of their technology. It's phase-change memory that's written by zillions of probes that are in turn moved mechanically. Like a disk you say? Well, kind-of, except that the movement isn't done by a rotating motor, the movement is MEMS driven. Solid state "motor" of sorts. A MEMS driven solid state hard disk. It's at least intellectually interesting. TBD about cost effectiveness (like what kind of yields can they produce, assuming its reliable, etc).


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