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Samsung unveils first 40nm flash chip

32Gb NAND module smallest to date

Samsung has showed off its first 40nm (nanometre) flash chip, a 32Gb (gigabit) NAND flash memory that can be used in memory cards able to store up to 64GB (gigabytes) of data, or around 40 movies.

The latest step into smaller chip manufacturing methods brings Samsung to the forefront of chip production putting it ahead of other bit manufacturers, including Intel, which has only announced chips built at 45nm. The chips are the seventh generation of NAND flash memory to follow in a Moore's law-type theory posited by Samsung, that the company will double the capacity of NAND flash every 12 months.

Such advances are vital to the consumer electronics industry. Users are demanding ever smaller devices that can do more, such as handsets with built-in mobile phone, computing, camera and digital-music playing functions. Demand for more storage to keep photos, videos, songs and other data has expanded rapidly over the past few years, and analysts expect the trend to continue.

The 40nm chip-production technique is key to making chips smaller, faster, more powerful, and cheaper to produce. A nanometre is a billionth of a metre, and the measurement is a guide to the size of the transistors and other parts that are etched onto the chips. Typically, the more transistors, and the closer they are together, the faster the chip can perform tasks.

The company revealed a new design technique, CTF (Charge Trap Flash), that will allow it to eventually shrink NAND chip features to 20nm, and produce 256Gb chips. In the 32Gb chips, the control gate in the CTF is only a fifth as big as conventional control gates on chips in a typical floating gate structure. With CTF, there is no floating gate. Instead, data is temporarily placed in a holding chamber made of silicon nitride.

Samsung released a chip for its hybrid drives, a kind of hard disk drive aimed at laptops that uses NAND flash as a disk cache, to speed bootup times and reduce power consumption

The new chip, dubbed an SoC (system-on-chip) because it does the work of several chips, incorporates up to 4GB of NAND flash as a data buffer and helps further speeds boot-up times while lengthening battery life, the company said.

The chips will be in mass production in November.

Samsung is one of several companies working on hybrid drives. Seagate and Intel are also developing the technology for laptop computers.

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