20nm flash chip means more mobile-device features, smaller SSDs

Micron-Intel venture plans to create a 128GB SSD smaller than a postage stamp

By reducing its NAND flash chip size by as much as 40 per cent, Intel and Micron have opened the door for tablets and smartphone manufacturers to use the extra space for product improvements such as a bigger battery, larger screen or adding another chip to handle new features.

It also means solid state drives (SSD) with twice the capacity of current drives.

This week, Intel and Micron officially announced their joint chip manufacturing venture, IM Flash Technologies (IMFT), is producing NAND flash memory with circuitry almost half the size of its current products, or 20 nanometers (nm) in width.

A size comparison between IMFT's current NAND flash chips

Micron told Computerworld about IMFT's advancement in NAND flash lithography technology earlier this month. At that time, the company said that by early summer it plans to produce a new enterprise-class solid state drive (SSD) based on the PCIe expansion card standard that won't be using the new 20nm NAND but the 34nm multi-level cell (MLC) NAND process technology. Even so, Micron said its new PCIe SSD cards will be the highest performing to date.

The new PCIe card, called the P320h, follows Micron's first enterprise-class SSD, the P300, which is based on the serial ATA (SATA) interface and single-level cell (SLC) NAND flash memory.

While the new 20nm chips have the same capacity as their 25nm predecessors, the same lithography process will also produce a single (monolithic) 16GB die, with samples available in the second half of 2011. This will effectively double the capacity for SSDs, a Micron spokeswoman said.

When the 20nm chips go into mass production later this year, Intel and Micron said they also expect to unveil samples of their 16GB chip, creating up to 128GBs of capacity in a single solid-state drive that is smaller than a U.S. postage stamp.

The new 20nm chips have the highest capacity for their form factor of any in the market today and are targeted for use in tablets, smartphones and other consumer electronic devices.

Even at 25nm, IMFT is approaching atomic sizes with its circuitry. For example, a human hair is 3,000 times thicker than 25nm.

IMFT also stated that by shrinking NAND lithography to 20nm is the most cost-effective way for increasing fabrication output, as it provides approximately 50 per cent more gigabyte capacity from these factories when compared to current technology.

The new 20nm process maintains similar performance and endurance as the previous generation 25nm NAND technology.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

Read more about storage in Computerworld's Storage Topic Center.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags telecommunicationMobile and Wirelessstoragestorage hardwarePhonesComponentshealth careprocessorsmobileindustry verticalsintelconsumer electronicssmartphones

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucas Mearian

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?