RealTime IT News

Samsung Hits Flash Marks

Think Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. realizes the stakes in the Flash memory market?

The Korean chipmaker today unveiled a 40-nanometer (nm), 32-Gigabit (Gb) NAND Flash chip, a new technology to replace NOR Flash memory  and a new system-on-chip controller for its forthcoming Hybrid Hard Disk Drive.

Flash memory is a semiconductor technology that makes it possible for digital devices, such as cell phones, MP3 players and digital cameras, to store a fair bit of data.

NAND  has become the preferred format for storing larger quantities of data on USB Flash drives, digital cameras and MP3 players.

However, advancements in NAND are leading to the chips' increased employment in PDAs and cell phones.

With the use of such devices proliferating at a rapid clip, the goal of Flash memory chip and product makers such as Samsung, Toshiba and Micron is to pack as much storage into as small a device as possible.

There are big bucks here; Gartner said NAND Flash sales topped $10.7 billion in 2005, and the research firm expects $14.7 billion in sales through 2006.

Looking for a competitive advantage versus its rivals, Samsung said in a statement the new 32Gb NAND Flash device incorporates Charge Trap Flash (CTF) architecture, which increases the reliability of the memory by reducing inter-cell noise levels.

How it works is key to its value.

In traditional 32Gb devices, the control gate in the CTF is only 20 percent as large as a conventional control gate in a typical floating gate structure.

With CTF, there is no floating gate; the data is temporarily placed in a holding chamber of the non-conductive layer of the Flash memory composed of silicon nitride, yielding greater reliability and better control of the storage current.

Samsung said the 32Gb NAND Flash memory can be used in memory cards with densities of up to 64 Gigabytes (GBs). A 64GB card can store over 40 movies or 16,000 MP3 music files.

"The new CTF technology will extend the life span of NAND Flash well beyond 40-nm level of manufacturing process technology, allowing for greater product miniaturization and greater economies of scale in the production of consumer electronics," said Samsung CEO Hwang Chang Gyu.

Samsung said expects CTF-based NAND to be refined down to 20nm at the 256Gb level over time.

Samsung also said today that it has completed the first prototype of Phase-change Random Access Memory (PRAM), a 512 megabit (Mb) memory device meant to replace NOR Flash chips.

NOR has traditionally been used to store relatively small amounts of executable code for embedded computing devices such as PDAs and cell phones.

PRAM combines the fast processing speed of RAM with the non-volatile features of Flash memory. PRAM can rewrite data without erasing accumulated data, making it 30 times faster than conventional Flash memory.

Samsung, which expects to pump out devices using PRAM by 2008, said these higher processing speeds will be popular in future multi-function handsets and mobile applications where faster speeds yield performance boosts.

Samsung today also said it has developed a new system-on-chip (SoC) solution for its hybrid drive and will begin mass producing it in November.

The new SoC supports up to 4Gb Flash memory as a data buffer and reduces power-consumption levels up to 80 percent compared with a hard disk drive.

While Samsung's new technologies put the present state of NAND Flash in a good light, the chipmaker has greater hopes for NAND in the future.

Samsung launched the first solid-state-disk (SSD) notebooks in June, looking to bring NAND to full-on computers.