Intel and Micron Technology set the NAND flash capacity bar a little higher and the chip size threshold a little lower Feb. 1 with the introduction of the world's first 25-nanometer solid-state processor.
The 25-nm, 2-bit-per-cell chip can hold 8GB of digital capacity, more than 10 times the 700MB capacity of a standard CD. The chip measures a mere 167 square millimeters-small enough to fit through the hole in the middle of a CD.
"This is not only the smallest NAND lithography in the world, it is the smallest silicon manufacturing technology in the world," Intel Marketing Director Troy Winslow told eWEEK on a conference call. "This is now the largest-capacity multilevel cell device on the market, at 8GB. We were the first on 34 nm, now we're the first on 25 nm."
The smaller size allows multiple 8GB chips to be packaged more economically to increase storage capacity. The new 25-nm 8GB device reduces chip count by 50 percent compared with previous process generations, allowing for smaller yet higher-density designs and greater cost efficiency, Winslow said.
For example, a 256GB solid-state drive now only needs 32 of these devices, versus 64 previously, Winslow said, while a 32GB smartphone needs only four and a 16GB flash card requires only two.
NAND flash memory, used in consumer devices such as smartphones, digital cameras, and personal music and media players, stores data and retains the information even when the power is turned off. NAND flash also is gaining popularity for use in high-performance solid-state drives for servers and storage arrays.
IM Flash Technologies, Intel and Micron's NAND flash joint venture, continues to cram more capacity into tinier pieces of silicon about every six to eight months. IMFT debuted its 34-nm, 3-bit-per-cell NAND flash chip in August 2009.
The 25-nm, 8GB chip is sampling now and is expected to enter mass production in the second quarter, Winslow said.