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Memory-Chip Alternative Is Unveiled


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Unity Semiconductor Corp. says it has developed an alternative to the widely used NAND flash memory chip that can store four times the amount of data in the same space and record data five to 10 times faster. The company says it has developed working prototypes, but that it does not expect to offer the chips commercially for two years. In addition to completing a finished product, the company needs to find a large manufacturing partner to become a major chip provider.

Instead of using electrons to store data, Unity's chips use ions, charged particles formed by the addition or loss of electrons and how they move through certain materials. Memory chips, fabricated on silicon wafers, generally store data using transistors in cells that are laid out in a two-dimensional pattern. Unity says its technology, which does not use transistors, makes it possible to stack four cells on top of each other, fitting more data into less space. Unity also plans to buy partially unfinished wafers from chip foundries, which should lower its production costs.

Unity and its unnamed manufacturing partner plan to jointly finance a factory, and both companies would sell a portion of the output under their own brand names. Unity has acquired about 60 patents so far, and Unity CEO Darrell Rinerson says the company aims to "keep others out" to prevent the technology from being commoditized. By mid 2011, Unity expects to be able to offer a commercial chip capable of storing 64 gigabits, about twice the capacity of the most advanced NAND chips currently available.

From The Wall Street Journal
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