100 GB memory chip coming in 2009

100 GB memory chip coming in 2009

Summary: Bytes, not bits. Oh, and it's fast, too.Nanochip, a Silicon Valley-based fabless semiconductor firm, just received $14 million in funding to complete work on a 100 GB storage chip.

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Bytes, not bits. Oh, and it's fast, too. Nanochip, a Silicon Valley-based fabless semiconductor firm, just received $14 million in funding to complete work on a 100 GB storage chip. Intel Capital, who should know something about chips, is an investor. The goal: ". . . allow Nanochip to complete development of its first prototypes later this year . . . ."

MEMSy were the borogoves . . . The Nanochip design is a Micro-Electro-Mechanical System, or MEMS, device. A descendent of IBM's Millipede device, it uses polarization instead of Millepede's heat to store data.

An array of tiny probes - looking like phonograph needles, if any of you have ever seen one - less than 25 um in diameter, changes the state of the recording medium. The probes are movable - similar to the mirrors on DLP chips - so they can write more than one location. Since there are many thousands of probes, they have a lot of bandwidth.

Update: this is persistent storage, i.e. it retains data with the power off. The Millipede design proposed using a heat-sensitive polymer to create little CD-like pits to record data. They couldn't get that to work so now they are using an electrical method.

Here's a scanning electron microscope picture of a probe:

read_write_chip.jpg graphic courtesy of Nanochip

Double your fun The chip is actually 2 chips bonded together. One chip has the array of probes and the other has the media. They are bonded, diced and then mounted in traditional plastic packaging.

The really cool thing is that they can use 10 year old, fully depreciated, fab equipment to build these chips. They don't need deep UV technology or any of the other costly tricks chip makers use today to scrunch chip sizes. A 1 micron fab is fine. That should translate into much lower costs.

The design is scalable to 1 TB chips, according to Nanochip. How cool is that?

The Storage Bits take The MEMS-based memory device idea has been around for over a decade, but no one has yet figured out how to produce reliable devices in volume. This funding round shows that the VCs are seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

I sure hope they are right.

Comments welcome, as always. Update: Hilarious take on the mathematics of a 100 GB chip. Cool! Realistically, I'm sure they'll use some ECC to protect the data.

Topics: Networking, Hardware, Processors

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  • Tip of the hat

    It sure it nice to read an article of value in your blogs. Nice to see you get back on track instead of the off-topic useless crap that you have posted over the last few months.

    Keep it up! This is what makes ZDnet great.

    Good Job.
    TheTruthGiver
    • With compliments like that, who needs critics!

      With compliments like that, who needs critics!
      tr7oy
    • It was of high value to me...

      I think this is of high interest.

      I didn't know about this & I'm glad he made me informed of this.
      BlazingEagle
  • Challenge to Optical Disks

    With storage chips getting so capacious, I wonder if the current HD-DVD/BluRay battle is becoming irrelevant.

    A solid-state chip-based movie cartidge could easily store a lot more, be far more robust against piracy, and given enough quantity could probably reach the same pricepoint as a BluRay disk in a couple of years. And it wouldn't get scratched by your kids.
    A.Sinic
    • I've been saying this for years

      That's why I'm not buying either HD-DVD or Blu-Ray. Unless something happens that my replacement DVD player is cheaper to get HD-DVD for example. This happened with CD player vs DVD players that played CDs. So it's quite possible that on of the formats will be the standard for playing all the older DVD plus the few HD titles while solid state tech takes over as the true Format King.

      Also I'm not sure how it could be more robust against piracy. One thing that would probably make the Movie industry scream is you can write you own movies on DVD to devices like this.
      voska1
      • New Format Idea

        With the evolution of much higher capacity chips, this format idea may not be impossible. But this is totally new system, but the potential i think is good. As for piracy, it may cope up with any encryption but being chip based its a different story. Since optical storage is 'static' I would say chip based media is dynamic.
        adelacuesta
    • Already there dude

      Case in point:

      Average HD disc (Blu or HD): $25
      Average 4GB thumb drive: $20
      Average 4GB thumb drive in quantities over 1000 (according to tech data pricing): $10

      Given a $10 price tag, plus $10-$15 per sale royalty-- the prices are already at equal par, but do you know why it'll never happen?

      Chips as seen as volatile storage, which to the ignorant executives in the entertainment business, is synonymous with "easier to hack."
      kckn4fun
      • 100GB memory chip

        Actually the thumb drives are less than that now. This weekend I purchased an 8GB for $22 and there were several other models which were there at about the same price. The 8GB thumb drive would most likely be able to hold the HD data without too much problem . I was actually surprised when I saw them.
        rahart@...
      • I am not sure I see your math...

        4GB thumb drives are cheap, but HD Disk hold up to 5 times that amount or more ???
        mrOSX
    • HD-DVD/BluRay Battle is over

      " With storage chips getting so capacious, I wonder if the current HD-DVD/BluRay battle is becoming irrelevant.

      A solid-state chip-based movie cartidge could easily store a lot more, be far more robust against piracy, and given enough quantity could probably reach the same pricepoint as a BluRay disk in a couple of years. And it wouldn't get scratched by your kids.
      Posted by: A.Sinic Posted on: 01/23/08"

      That battle has been won already. BluRay prevailed when WB dropped HD-DVD. They were its main supporter. At this point is just up to the straggler to catch on that their medium is dead.

      I do agree that this could mean the end for movie's on disc however. I dont know about the more robust piracy prevention. There will always be a hacker or cracker or script kiddie out there who's as smart if not smarter than the person who comes up with the latest and greatest encryption method. Look at Sony... they had a disc on the shelves for less than a week and it was already cracked, by a 14 year old kid nonetheless. Millions of dollars of R&D went down the hole because of a $2 Sharpie. If its on a solid state card, its essentially a hard drive and fully encrypted hard drives can be cracked.
      Just my opinion though
      NamelessFor Now
      • Blu-Ray is far from winning the masses

        Blu-Ray hasn't won a thing. Sure they have the most content in HI-DEf but that's not what wins the war. What wins the war is the first player to be adopted by the masses and that will be done by price alone. So unless Sony drops the prices of their Blu-Ray players it won't matter a bit how much content they have as the content will move to the biggest market.

        Now since both players will play regular DVDs the masses will pick up the player that is the cheapest to play cheaper DVD formats with the option to play HD content in the future. Right now neither format is in the position to do this but HD-DVD being over $100 cheaper than the Blu-Ray player is poised to move into that position first. Knowing Sony they won't cut prices enough in time to stop this. It's Betamax all over again. Also if you remember Betamax had most of the content back in the day too but VHS was cheaper to buy and the content moved to the lower quality format because that's where the masses went.

        In the end I think this solid state chip idea has the potential to kill both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray as it offers more than just a quality boost.
        voska1
      • Smarter than...? I don't think so.

        "There will always be a hacker or cracker or script kiddie out there who's as smart if not smarter than the person who comes up with the latest and greatest encryption method."

        That's one of the great fallacies floating around in the arrogant heads of malicious hackers--that they are smarter than the person whose technology they hacked. Not even remotely so. Listen, it's always easier to destroy something than to create it (ask any terrorist). The creator must be concerned with his/her whole creation plus the security to protect it. The destroyer simply has to look for a chink in the armor/crack in the wall. Finding one does not put them on par with the creator.
        tr7oy
        • Quite correct. That is why it is futile to try new and

          "uncrackable" encryption on a disc or stick. There will ALLWAYS be a way around it when encrypted media hit the masses.
          hkommedal
          • Not matter the format...

            ... & security measures, sooner or later, someone will always find a way to steal the content.

            While security measures obviously need to be put in place, nothing is fool proof.

            People either under estimate or over estimate peoples capabilities to do harm.

            I legimately buy content that I'm TRULY interested in & I'm tired of innocent people suffering from criminals activities.

            Sometimes, I think prices are high & said high prices are tolerated by the masses because of a boogie man called "piracy".
            BlazingEagle
      • Looks like the HD-DVD/Blu-Ray Battle HAS BEEN OVER...

        Although I've avoided both formats so far, partly waiting to see which way the wind blew, partly waiting for costs to come down, and partly because I saw no reason to pay that much for just a PLAYER for movies that cost usually at least TWICE what DVDs do, when we watch most of them only a few times -- I was more interested in waiting for the writeable disc technology to get affordable, but the blank disks cost so much more than DVDs that you can copy or back up way more data on DVDs for the cost of a single HD disk of EITHER format.

        HOWEVER, one interesting thing I've recently noticed that makes me think Blu-Ray HAS won this battle (for now -- I agree these newer high-capacity chips are likely to replace both) is the fact that BOTH machines are FINALLY available in my local Sam's Club -- the Sony Blu-Ray for $374... a true 1080P version... but only the ORIGINAL, FIRST-GENERATION Toshiba HD-DVD (which is only 720P/1080i), although it's a VERY AFFORDABLE $124!

        Those closed out in the Circuit City and other Big Box stores and online for around $200 SEVERAL months back to as much as a year ago, well after the 1080P version was released, but as I don't really keep up with it, I'm not even sure if I can find a 1080P locally, as I've not shopped for one.

        The point is... all these emerging high-capacity chip technologies are BOUND to replace disks -- I was actually visualizing this 25 years ago or more, before even the personal computer was more than much of a dream, because watching shows like "Star Trek" had just given me a glimpse of the sort of thing our future COULD hold, and I imagined a day people might have a home sound system where they'd have all their music (didn't think of TV or music) on a single chip they could just plug into their sound system and then choose from whatever's on it... And I'm no genious... So if I could imagine this 25 years ago, people actually making it come true now, or in the near future is SOOOO fulfilling and actually a bit mind-blowing!

        I just hope we don't create AI that kills us all and takes over the planet, like in the "Terminator" movies and the great new TV show (man, that Summer Glau is just SOOOO hot, huh?)!
        Jeff
        Jeff Hayes
        • I think this will eventually overtake optical mediums...

          For one thing, solid state mediums can't be scratched like optical can.

          Even when one's careful, you can still accidently scratch an optical disc. Not to mention general, normal wear & tear over time can also scratch them.

          Plus, if your in a hurry and/or distracted, you can inadverently scratch an optical medium like CD's
          BlazingEagle
  • RE: 100 GB memory chip coming in 2009

    Back to the Days of old plug and play carts. Great concept.
    kenner.costen@...
    • Except you'll . . .

      be able to get these things in an SD format-sized card. Big difference . . .
      JLHenry
    • Think RF. Think further...

      No plug, just play.

      You place the memory device near the player device. RF from the player energizes a Bluetooth transmitter, high-speed short-range, and the player plays the "content" without any need for physical contact.

      Of course, if the RF power supply receiver, or the Bluetooth transmitter fails...


      Probably, every "player" will come with the one terrabyte model part(s) installed. You just download your movies, music, TV, photographs, etc. into it. The box contains all the interface electronics, and a user interface.

      Just attach the box to the TV, power amplifiers, and Ethernet. Programs can be set up on the box, and a remote control used to select them. It will remember where you were on your last viewing (as the iMac software does), so there is no need for hunting. Bookmarks, etc. are possible!

      Tech fun!
      Master Dave
  • UPR and others

    working on technology that will take optical and solid
    state well beyond the petabyte capacity.

    So wait and see. Intel, the fat lady hasn't sang yet.
    grey_eminence