8-Gigabit Flash Memory Chip Debuts

Data storage companies Toshiba and SanDisk
announced a new flash memory chip designed to
address the growing use of large media files.

The joint development partnership has produced a chip that
accommodates 8-gigabits (Gb) of storage. Made using 70-nanometer (nm)
process technology, the computer memory chip is based on a NAND design, which makes it suitable for storing music, video and other data. Toshiba and SanDisk said products based on their new flash memory technology should start rolling out this summer.

The companies said the 8Gb chip will become “the production workhorse” for the joint venture between Toshiba and SanDisk. At a size of 146-millimeters, the 8Gb chip has a density of 6 billion bits or 3 billion transistors per square centimeter (20 billion transistors per
square inch of silicon). The companies said they also plan to
commercialize a 16Gb NAND flash memory component that stacks two of the
8Gb NAND flash memories in a single package.

The new NAND flash memory chip uses multi-level cell technology that
lets two bits of data be stored in one memory cell – in effect doubling
the memory capacity. The circuit design is less than 5 percent larger
than the previous generation 4Gb chip on 90-nanometer. Toshiba and
SanDisk said they also increased the speed at which the chip writes data
with a combination of burst mode techniques and high read bandwidth.

Production of the chip falls right in-line with Toshiba’s previously
announced roadmap and is designed to compete against the largest flash
memory producer, Samsung.

Alan Niebel, an analyst with semiconductor market study firm Web-Feet
Research, said despite the high profile announcement at the International
Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) 2005 in San Francisco this week,
the device will not be pushed very hard into production.

“Toshiba and SanDisk are showing that they are ahead of Samsung who
plans on releasing their first MLC Samsung NAND in the 8Gbit version by
September,” Niebel told internetnews.com. “It is a battle of the
big giant against the two lesser giants (Toshiba and SanDisk) as to who
has the biggest chip first.”

The 8Gbit component is necessary, Niebel said, to keep the higher
capacity components rolling out into the market as the need for storing
video files will consume these high capacity components. Niebel said he
expects Toshiba and SanDisk to also develop a 4Gbit single-level cell
flash memory chip by next year as well.

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