Intel, STM Ship First Phase-Change Memory Samples
February 7, 2008 5:02 PM
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
, 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
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.
"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad
Nanochip Promises 100GB-per-chip Alternative to Flash Memory
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