## Intel Doubles Capacity of Likely Flash Successor 91

Posted
by
ScuttleMonkey

from the double-or-nothing dept.

from the double-or-nothing dept.

Intel has announced a new technique that allows them to effectively double the storage capacity of a single phase-change memory cell without adding cost to the current fabrication process.

*"Phase-change memory differs from other solid-state memory technologies such as flash and random-access memory because it doesn't use electrons to store data. Instead, it relies on the material's own arrangement of atoms, known as its physical state. Previously, phase-change memory was designed to take advantage of only two states: one in which atoms are loosely organized (amorphous), and another where they are rigidly structured (crystalline). But in a paper presented at the International Solid State Circuits Conference in San Francisco, researchers illustrated that there are two more distinct states that fall between amorphous and crystalline, and that these states can be used to store data."*
## Two Billion Transistors on Their Latest Chip (Score:1, Redundant)

## Re: (Score:3, Informative)

So I doubt this will be happening any time in the near future.

-nB

## Re:Two Billion Transistors on Their Latest Chip (Score:4, Informative)

## Re:Two Billion Transistors on Their Latest Chip (Score:5, Informative)

http://www.eetimes.com/news/semi/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=196601127 [eetimes.com]

## Seems unlikely (Score:2)

## Re: (Score:2)

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## Salt shaker please (Score:3, Insightful)

It's neat tech, but as long as flash keeps getting bigger and cheaper we won't see it's 'Successor' for a while.

## Long time in the lab (Score:4, Insightful)

## Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

Before I left my former job we were working on PCM.

It was anything but easy to make in small batches in the lab. Our average yield of 100% good die was under 1 die/wafer.

We had plenty of 50% dice, but very little fully functional ones.

-nB

## Re: (Score:2)

He should have said something like:

"Relative to each other, it's easier to make one functional unit in a lab than to make 1000 functional units a day"

## Except... (Score:3, Interesting)

## Re:Salt shaker please (Score:4, Informative)

As I understand it, flash (nand) capacity grows with the shrinking of the trace size. It's also cheap because it's produced in mass quantities.

Everything that has made flash high capacity and cheap can be applied to PCM, only PCM has a number of advantages:

- more durable, since it doesn't force high voltages over blocks to erase them

- smaller cells, allowing more to be packed in the same space

- rewriteability. You don't have to erase a block to change a single byte. It's more like RAM or hard disks in that respect.

So what will likely happen is a slow change from FLASH to PCM as the major flash manufacturers transition their products to this technology. It'll still have the same form factor, and most people won't notice aside from an increase in capacity.

IANAPCMEBIWNS (I am not a pcm expert but I work near some...)

## Re: (Score:2)

Consequently, you have economies of scale that translate from the other microelectronics markets. More importantly, you have one monolithic chip with control, interface, encryption logic, etc. all on one chip with one fab run. Many of our chip designs use small pockets of flash memory here and there (specially available f

## Re: (Score:2)

While I don't disagree with your point overall, isn't that exactly

unlikea hard disk? On a hard disk, you must rewrite an entire sector to change a byte, and not only that, you must wait until the platter spins around to the right spot again in order to do it.## Double the bandwidth for Duplicates? (Score:2)

Does this mean twice as many stories at Slashdot [slashdot.org]?

## Re: (Score:1)

## SLC/MLC Flash is a different issue than PCM (Score:2)

## Re:Only Double? (Score:5, Informative)

## Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

## Re: (Score:2)

## Re: (Score:2, Informative)

Say we use a bit to store the result of a coin toss. True for heads, false for tails.

With two bits, we can store the results of two coin tosses. There are four possible outcomes when two coins are tossed, ranging from neither of them being heads, to only the first or the second being heads, or both of them being heads.

If we double the number of bits, we can store the result of four coin tosses. There are now sixteen possible outcomes, but we're still only storing the result of f

## Re: (Score:1)

## Re:Only Double? (Score:4, Informative)

## Re: (Score:1)

To be more precise, what they're doing is changing bits to qits (possibly pronounced 'kits'?), or Quaternary DigITs. There are the same number or qits as there used to be bits.

Either way you look at it, however, you're doubling the data density, and therefore doubling the maximum storage capacity in a theoretical standard-sized hard drive without changing the price point.

## Re:Only Double? (Score:5, Informative)

## Re: (Score:2)

binary digit, and binary means two. In communications, you have the same distinction between bits per second and baudrate. Bits per seconds give you the amount of ones and zeros transmitted, while the baudrate gives you the amount of symbols per digit. If a symbol can be one of four possible tones (or phases), you get 2 bits per baud, and that's what happening here again.## Re: (Score:2)

## Re: (Score:1)

So while it's not an exponential growth, it's not linear either (twice the amount). Linear would look like 2*2^n. What we have is 4^n, or (2*2)^n, which is the same as (2^(n*2)), which is the same as (n^2)^2.

So it's actually a polynomial increase in overall storage, not just a linear doubling. This squarin

## Re: (Score:2)

0, 1

Two bits:

00, 01, 10, 11

In order to double it again, we simply add another bit:

000, 001, 010, 011, 100, 101, 110, 111

Each binary digit doubles the data capacity. Just like each decimal digit results in 10x the capacity.

For any given number of bits per cell, n, we have 2^n combinations. This technology added one more bit, so it increased the amount of data storage by:

2^(n+1) / 2^n = 2

It only "doubled" because we started with n = 1. Th

## Re: (Score:1)

If they can represent 4 different states in the same physical component then each bit becomes a 0, 1, 2, or 3. So we will count up as 0, 1, 2, 3, 10=4, 11=5, 12=6, 13=7, 20=8, 21=9, 23=10, 23=11, 30

## Re: (Score:2)

Since there is no known way to represent e physically due to its fraction, "3" is as good as it gets.

## Re: (Score:2)

A similar thing is why the Baud rate [wikipedia.org] isn't equal to the bit rate on 56.7K modems.

## Re: (Score:1)

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## Your logic is flawed (Score:2)

You are counting the number of VALUES that could be stored, not the equivalent number of bits needed to store those values. With your logic, starting with 8 slots that store 2 states, going to 8 slots that store 4 states, we'd be going from 256 to 65536. But that's not 256 times the capacity of bit storage; it's still just a doubling of the capacity. For every slot that can store 4 states, that's just the equivalent of 2 bits. That's certainly twice as much as before, and it means this technology of mem

## Yes (Score:2)

Each item that could store two bits can now store twice as many bits of data. Before you had one item that had two states: (0, 1) Now you have one item that has four states (0, 1, 2, 3). With two states, you would need two items to make four possibilities: (00, 01, 10, 11). So you get the same amount of information with 1/2 the number of storage items, hence double the capacity. Using your example, you would need four bits to store the same possiblities as two items with four states: (0000, 0001, 0010

## No longer binary? (Score:1, Interesting)

Could this new technology be used for CPUs as well, or only memory?

## Re: (Score:2)

uniqueYou keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

## Re: (Score:1)

## Re: (Score:2)

## Re: (Score:3, Informative)

## Re: (Score:2)

## Re: (Score:2)

I'm terribly out of date on this, but - in the old days with multiple chips for a memory bank, there was address decoding circuitry that would point you to the right chips/pins. If - and I'm clueless here - the same thing is still being done but it's all been reduced to fewer chips, then this _might_ imply that you still do the address decoding as before, but you have fewer address wires to route. In other words, we used to need two cells for four - now we have four in one cell -

## Re: (Score:2)

00 = 0.0V

01 = 0.4V

10 = 0.8V

11 = 1.2V

You'd then do a crude A-D conversion (it's crude and small/lower power because it only needs to handle 4 distinct voltage levels). Off the top of my head, the smallest would be two pairs of N-FET and P-FET. One will have the threshold voltage biased at 0.2V and the other biased at 1.0V using a voltage divider from VDD to GND.

The output of the first pair of FET

## Re: (Score:2)

## Binary is easier to work with (Score:1)

## Re: (Score:1)

## Re: (Score:1)

10 04 02

---------

00 00 000

01 01 001

02 02 010

03 03 011

04 10 100

05 11 101

06 12 110

07 13 111

## It will be converted to binary (Score:3, Insightful)

You can label the now total of 4 states however you like, such as 00/01/10/11 or 0/1/2/3 or A/B/C/D or T/A/C/O. But whatever they are, Intel would need to, at some point, convert this all back to 2 bits with states 0/1 when interfacing with external binary circuits. If they don't know how to do that they are welcome to "Ask Slashdot".

## Re: (Score:2)

http://www.americanscientist.org/template/AssetDetail/assetid/14405?&print=yes [americanscientist.org]

## Re: (Score:1)

## Re: (Score:2)

To find any number N, one would need a tree of L levels and B children per node at each level. B^L must then be >= N in order to guarantee that the number N is represented in the tree. We can then take this to mean

## Re: (Score:2)

To find the base that would result in the lowest search time, take the double derivative of T with respect to B and find the roots (peak and valley where search time either maximizes or minimizes).

## Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

## Re: (Score:2)

The advantage of analog computers was that they had no rounding errors. The disadvantage was noise.

## Scientists double the speed of starships!! (Score:1)

The article says that Intel has just doubled the size of PRAM, which is nice, but PRAM will not be commercially viable for some time to come, so I the article, or at least the headline is somewhat sensational. I guess science journalists are still journalists.

When I am working on a design, I guess i could say that I increased the capability by an infinite amount at the moment when the first prototype is verified functional.

## Just like the MLC flash. (Score:1, Informative)

## Three states (Score:2)

## I didn't know Silverlight HAD storage capacity! (Score:5, Funny)

## Bits and States Explained (Score:1)

## Re: (Score:1)

I can see using this to jam more storage onto the device, then making a simple ciruit to convert the base4 to base2, but I don't ever see this being usable outside of storage; Unless there are some sort of quarternary logic gates that I dont know about.

## Re: (Score:2)

Binary logic - yes, no.

Quarternary logic - Yes, probably, possibly, no.

Hmmm. 50 percent of the choices there are indeterminate; better stick with the trinary 'yes, maybe, no' model.

## step backwards (Score:1)

## Re: (Score:2)

And the alternative would be...?

## Re: (Score:3, Informative)

The trick is, of course, in how fast you can change those states. I would imagine electrons are much easier to move than whole atoms. I understand how read speed for PCM is faster than a transistor bu

## Re: (Score:1)

## Another innovation? (Score:2)

notbe sponge worthy.## Re: (Score:2)

In fact I have a USB key with PCM on it... A whopping 32K.

-nB

## I for one... (Score:1)

## two more states, eh? (Score:2)

## Star Trek (Score:1)