Intel, Micron announce higher-density flash memory

The companies are sampling triple-level-cell memory

Intel and Micron on Tuesday announced denser NAND flash memory, which could help reduce the space occupied by memory while increasing the storage capacity on consumer electronics.

The new memory device accommodates three bits of data per cell and offers a total storage capacity of about 64 gigabits, which is about 8GB. The companies called the new memory their smallest NAND device to date.

The capability to store three bits per cell is an improvement over traditional flash memory, which can store about one or two bits per cell. The new technology will help cram more storage into smaller spaces, the companies said.

Devices like digital cameras and portable media players that use NAND flash are consistently getting smaller in size, the companies said. The advance could also help provide memory at competitive prices while lowering manufacturing costs.

The companies are sending samples to customers and expect the memory to be in mass production by the end of the year. The memory will be made using the 25-nanometer process.

The device is about 20 percent smaller than the companies' two-bits-per-cell NAND flash -- also called multilevel cell (MLC) NAND -- made using the 25-nm process, with the same total storage capacity, the companies said.

"As we increase the number of bits per cell, we're able to reduce our costs and increase our capacity," said Kevin Kilbuck, director of NAND strategic marketing at Micron, in a video on Micron's blog site.

The increased density comes with some trade-offs, however.

"The performance and the endurance measured in the number of times you can program the NAND ... degrade as you increase the number of bits per cell," Kilbuck said.

The announcement follows Intel's and Micron's February announcement that they were sampling MLC NAND flash made using the 25-nm process. At the time, the companies said the memory would enter mass production in the second quarter. Intel currently offers the X25 line of solid-state drives based on flash memory made using the 34-nm process.

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