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With new technology, Samsung chip speeds up

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Sept 11,2006
Samsung Electronics unveiled yesterday the world’s first 32-gigabit NAND flash memory chip, backed on a new technology that upends 35 years of processing. Samsung Electronics President Hwang Chang-gyu announced the development of the new chip at a press conference in Seoul; the new chip has double the memory capacity of the one the company rolled out last year. Since Samsung Electronics developed the first 256-megabit NAND flash memory in 1999, the company has doubled the capacity of its semiconductor chips every year, a phenomenon many within the industry have been dubbed “Hwang’s Law.” The name and idea come from Moore’s Law, which states that the processing power of chips will double every 18 months. NAND flash memory chips are mostly used to store data in small devices such as digital cameras and music players. The chip Samsung presented yesterday was made using 40-nano technology; last year, chips were made using 50-nano technology. The difference allows more semiconductors to be produced from each wafer. Forty nanometers is 3,000 times thinner than a human hair. The 32-gigabit chip is about the size of a thumbnail. Stacking 16 together creates a 64-gigabyte memory card, which can store 36,000 high-resolution photographs, 40 high-quality movie files or 400 years’ worth of articles in daily newspapers. Mr. Hwang said the significance of the chip, however, was not its doubled capacity, but the fact that it was created using a new technology called charge trap flash (CTF), which replaced the “floating gate” technology created by Toshiba in 1989. “Before, it was impossible to perform minute processing below 50 nanometers, but this new technology will enable us to make 20-nanometer 256-gigabit chips,” he said, adding that CTF technology would allow semiconductor chips to create 1,000-gigabit, or 1-terabit, products after 2010. “Before, we developed our chips on the same lines of existing technology, but we took it a bit further. This time, however, we completely severed ourselves from the technology of the past,” Mr. Hwang said. “The new technology cuts 20 percent of the steps out of manufacturing, drastically saving on production costs.” He dubbed the development the chips would bring “Flashtopia.” Previously, Mr. Hwang said 2005 was the year of “Flash Rush.” “The semiconductor market has gone past the PC market and is now targeting the mobile and digital consumer market. Now that laptop computers are a rising market for flash memory chips as well, it won’t be long before every person in the world will be a target market for these chips,” he said. Also yesterday, the chipmaker announced that it has developed the world’s first 512-megabit phase change random access memory chip, or P-RAM, which is nearly 30 times faster than current memory chips. Samsung said the chips would be available in 2008. by Wohn Dong-hee


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