Samsung develops smaller 4GB flash memory chip

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. has developed a prototype flash memory chip that has a capacity equal to the company’s current largest commercial flash memory but at a smaller physical size, it said Monday.

The new chip can store 4GB, or 512MB, of memory and has a memory gate that is 70 nanometers in size. Samsung is currently mass producing 4GB chips with 120 nanometer, or 0.12 micron, memory gates and is also preparing to begin production of 90 nanometer versions.

The higher density chips are important for applications such as memory cards. Because the cards are a fixed size, the only way to create higher capacity versions is to cram more memory inside and that means higher density chips. They will also help engineers keep the size of portable electronics devices, such as digital music players, cellular telephones or digital still cameras, small while increasing the internal memory capacity.

Since the development of a 256MB flash memory chip in 1999, the Seoul-based chip maker has managed to double memory density every year and Monday’s announcement continues that trend. What’s more, the company expects the trend to continue, company spokesperson Sonia Kim said on Monday.

With its ability to keep data in memory even when power is turned off, flash memory can be found in millions of digital electronics products. Samsung said it expects the global market for NAND-type flash memory to be US$3 billion this year and jump to US$16 billion by 2007. The company said it is targeting annual sales growth of 70 per cent from US$400 million in 2001 and US$1.1 billion in 2002.

Samsung, along with Japan’s Toshiba Corp., leads the flash memory market, according to the most recent data from market research company IDC.