Toshiba has announced it plans to begin selling flash memory chips based on M-Systems Flash Disk Pioneers' flash memory capacity-doubling technology.
The deal with M-Systems will see Toshiba producing 512M-bit (64M-byte) memory chips based on M-Systems' Mobile DiskOnChip G3 technology, that allows each memory cell to hold double the amount of information that a conventional flash memory cell can hold.
This is accomplished by adding two additional states for each transistor so rather than being simply on or off, they can also be partially on or partially off. Using a proprietary on-chip controller to sense these levels, each memory cell can be used to hold two bits of information rather than one. Because the controller is on-chip, the entire device looks like a conventional memory chip to the rest of the system.
Energy consumption is also lower.
When not in use, the chip drew 10 microamps compared to about 100 microamps for a flash memory chip, senior manager at Toshiba's memory division, Junichi Kishida, said.
The advantage the technology brings to developers is that the space required for a given amount of memory can be reduced. That in turn helps drive miniaturisation and the production of smaller and more compact electronics products for consumers.
The new Toshiba chip will be available in sample quantities in April this year and commercially by about September. Sample pricing is $US16 per chip.
Toshiba planned to develop a family of devices based on the technology and a lower capacity 256M-bit chip was also due this year, Kishida said.
M-Systems said it expected a 1G-bit version of the chip to be available next year, followed by a 2G-bit version in 2005.
Toshiba recently announced that it and Germany's Infineon had successfully developed a 32M-bit ferroelectric RAM (FeRAM) chip.
The chip, details of which were presented at the International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco, is the latest product of joint development work the two companies began in early 2001.
The companies consider FeRAM to be a possible replacement for flash and SRAM (static RAM) memory used in mobile devices, because it offers attractive features of each type of memory.
It can hold data in memory even when the power was disconnected, just as flash memory can, and also worked at the higher speeds offered by SRAM or DRAM (dynamic RAM).