Imagine a small memory card that can store 80 DVD-quality movies or 32,000 songs. That vision of the portable memory future drew closer this week when Samsung announced it had developed the world's first 64-gigabit NAND flash memory chip.

The chip, using 30-nanometer process technology, was described by the company as "a major leap forward in the move to higher density flash storage solutions."

As many as 16 64-Gb chips could be combined to make a 128-GB memory card for storing dozens of DVD-quality movies. Samsung said it also developed a 32-Gb NAND flash chip based on the same technology.

Another Milestone

This new product marks another data point on the curve of flash memory density versus size. Samsung noted that this is the "eighth consecutive year that the density of memory has doubled and the seventh straight year that the nanometer scale has improved for NAND flash since the 100-nm 1-Gb NAND chip was developed in 2001."

The Seoul, South Korea-based company said it expects production of 64-Gb flash devices to begin in 2009, and it cited a report by Gartner Dataquest that sales for 64-Gb NAND flash devices -- and higher capacities -- could reach as much as $20 billion within three years.

Martin Reynolds, an analyst with industry research firm Gartner, said that Samsung's new chip is part of the "continued march of NAND flash" toward larger and larger capacities. He added that, while hard drives will always outperform flash in capacity and price-per-gigabyte, flash is positioned to take over from videotape storage for consumer cameras within the next five years.

While flash-based digital video storage is already available, it is pricey and limited in capacity, but Reynolds said he expects reasonably priced flash cards to be able to store two or three hours of consumer-quality video within that time frame.

Manufacturing Process

The new Samsung chip uses a new manufacturing process called self-aligned double patterning technology (SaDPT). In SaDPT, the first pattern transfer uses a wide circuit design and a second pattern transfer fills in the targeted area with a more closely designed pattern.

Samsung said that SaDPT overcomes a hurdle in creating circuitry smaller than 30-nm, by allowing the use of conventional lithography technology. This means that existing photolithography equipment can be used in manufacturing, thus speeding up the process of bringing the product to market and making it more cost-efficient.

The company had developed charge trap flash (CTF) technology last year for NAND flash, to accompany a new structure and a new material, silicon nitride. Both CTF and SaDPT will now be used.

Samsung has been pushing solid state products that could replace lower-capacity hard drives in laptops, such as the 2.5-inch, 64-GB solid state SATA drives it began shipping in September for Dell and Alienware notebooks. Those drives add $920 or $1,000, respectively, to the cost of the machines.