Samsung shrinks SRAM cellphone memory chip

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. has developed and is about to begin mass production of a new memory chip for mobile telephones that is about 30 per cent smaller in physical size than existing chips.

The new low-power, 8Mb (mega bit) SRAM (static random access memory) chip is produced using a 0.13-micron process that is one generation more advanced than the 0.15-micron process used to manufacture most current mobile phone memory chips. A micron is one-thousandth of a millimeter, and the process figure refers to the smallest gap that can be created between circuits on the surface of the chip. With each advance in technology, chips can be made physically smaller and with improved performance.

By using 0.13-micron production, Samsung has been able to make its new chip about 30 per cent smaller than current 0.15-micron chips, according to a company statement. Physical size is an important factor in applications such as mobile telephones because space is limited and designers are continually trying to make handsets smaller. In addition, because they are smaller, the new chips can be produced more than 50 per cent more efficiently, Samsung said.

Sample production of the chip, which was developed earlier this year, has just begun and mass production is scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year, Samsung said.

SRAM is commonly used as the main memory inside cellular telephone handsets. As handsets get more and more complicated, their memory requirements are steadily increasing. Samsung said it expects the handset market to maintain 15 per cent to 20 per cent year-on-year growth and for shipments to be between 380 million and 410 million this year. The South Korean chipmaker says it is aiming for SRAM sales of US$1.8 billion this year and a 30 per cent world market share in 2002.

In an attempt to attain this goal, the company said it is planning to apply next-generation 0.10-micron production technology to SRAM chips next year and 0.08-micron technology in 2003. It is also planning to begin production of a 16M-bit SRAM chip using 0.13-micron technology in the fourth quarter of this year, according to the statement.