Intel, Micron Get Even Smaller with 20nm NAND Flash

New 8GB chip will bring high capacity to smallest-yet form factor for tablets, smartphones, and other devices.

NAND flash chip development has taken its latest step forward.

Only four months after it started shipping its ClearNAND 25-nanometer Flash processor, partners Intel and Micron Technology's joint venture, IM Flash Technologies, on April 14 introduced a 20-nm process for manufacturing even smaller solid-state memory.

The new process produces an 8GB, multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash device, which measures only 118mm2 yet provides a high-capacity small-form factor storage option.

The smaller size of the chip doesn't seem like a major change, but it enables a 30 to 40 percent reduction in board space (depending on package type) compared to the companies' existing 25nm 8GB NAND device, Micron said.

The resultant chip will be used by device and systems manufacturers for the burgeoning market in embedded applications for handheld devices, enterprise-level servers, tablet computers, MP3 players, digital cameras, security cameras and others.

Micron makes NAND Flash for host processors built by its partner semiconductor firms that include Intel, the world's largest chip maker. With each iteration of its chip, Micron adds more capacity, enabling products and applications to have more functionality.

The NAND flash market has continued to see a significant downward trend in the size of its chips. Boise, Idaho-based Micron, which competes with companies such as Samsung, WD, SanDisk, Toshiba, Seagate and others, has taken the die size down to 20nm from 72nm and above from about three years ago.

Eventually, all nanotechnology has to face its limits, and Micron, Intel and Toshiba have said that NAND flash processing will be approaching that wall in about five years.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 10 years and more than 3,500 stories at eWEEK, he has distinguished...