Korean researchers aiming for 100 GB flash memory cards

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

Seoul (Korea) - Flash memory has been rumored to soon hit the limitations of nature, making it impossible for the technology to scale beyond 32 nm or 22 nm structures. Korean researchers now say they have developed 10 nm semiconductors based on carbon nanotubes that could breathe new life into Flash memory cards.

In research findings published in Nature Nanotechnology, of Choi Hee-cheul and Kim Hyun-tak describe what they call the first semiconductor that has broken the 10 nm barrier. The devices are less than one-sixth the size of semiconductors in mass-produced micro-processors today (65 nm) and measure only one-12,000th the width of a human hair.

Key to developing the 10 nm structures were carbon nanotubes, which appear to gain traction in the semiconductor industry. A significant commercial application of carbon nanotubes is scheduled to debut later this year in the form NRAM, a memory technology is based on nanotubes and promises to offer higher performance at a lower power consumption than regular DRAM. Seagate recently indicated that carbon nanotubes could become more important for hard drives with quickly increasing capacities.

The described 10 nm semiconductors also use a new material called "Mott insulator," which, according to Kim, has the ability to instantly transition from the role as a conductor to an insulator.

It is unclear, which capacity carbon-nanotube-supported flash memory could reach, but Choi and Kim believe that flash memory cards one day could store more than 1 billion newspaper pages, translating into a memory capacity of more than 100 GB. Today's mainstream flash memory cards top out at 8 GB.

"As far as we know, we broke a 10-nanometer barrier for the first time in history. We could make the breakthrough after finding unique surface chemical reactions of carbon nanotubes,'' Choi told the Korea Times newspaper. "We hope this carbon nanotube-based technology will help crank out 10-nanometer memory chips. Toward that end, we are currently cooperating with U.S. venture start-ups,'' he said.