Flash Memory Survives 100 Million Cycles

A little heat lets flash beat typical 10 000-cycle limit

3 min read
Flash Memory Survives 100 Million Cycles
Illustration: Brandon Palacio; Original Images: iStockphoto

In the world of memory chips, flash is king. But it’s not perfect. It wears out after being programmed and erased about 10 000 times. That’s fine for a USB dongle that you’ll probably lose in a year, but not ideal for the solid-state drives of server farms. And the same problem keeps manufacturers from using flash to replace other types of computer memories. This month, at the 2012 IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting, engineers from Macronix plan to report the invention of a self-healing NAND flash memory that survives more than 100 million cycles.


What’s more, that may not even be the real limit. “We do not know what would eventually cause the device to fail, since we have not seen the end-of-life signals yet,” says Hang‑Ting Lue, a project deputy director at Macronix, which is located in Hsinchu, Taiwan. To test for 1 billion cycles would take several months, he says.


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The State of the Transistor in 3 Charts

In 75 years, it’s become tiny, mighty, ubiquitous, and just plain weird

3 min read
A photo of 3 different transistors.
iStockphoto
LightGreen

The most obvious change in transistor technology in the last 75 years has been just how many we can make. Reducing the size of the device has been a titanic effort and a fantastically successful one, as these charts show. But size isn’t the only feature engineers have been improving.

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