The American memory manufacturer micron recently made the world’s first 3D NAND Flash Memory Introduced, which has 176 cell layers – until now the maximum has been 128. Along with an improved architecture, Micron promises not only SSDs with even higher storage capacities, but also faster data transfer speeds. And all this is not just a study or a first result: the memory is already being produced and the first SSD models are already on their way to partners and the company’s subsidiary Crucial. The start of sales of market-ready SSDs for industry and end customers is planned for 2021.
To enable the 176 cell layers in the first place, the self-developed second generation “Replacement Gates” (RG) are also used, which use even more conductive metal instead of silicon. The RG are combined with the charge-trap technique. The latter is already used by the competition and, compared to the widespread floating gate method, mainly provides a higher yield of the memory chips. Both along with other refinements allow for 176 cell layers, which in turn allows for even smaller memory chip areas, higher data throughput, lower latencies, and significantly increased memory density – ie, more memory in a smaller space.
Micron itself speaks of an improvement in read and write latencies of more than 35 percent over 96-layer NAND memories, which can lead to a noticeable improvement in applications. The maximum data transmission speed via the “Open NAND Flash Interface” (ONFI) has also increased by more than 33 percent to 1,600 MT/s (mega transfers per second). In practice, this leads to faster system starts and higher performance in programs.
The manufacturer also wants to have improved durability, which should be an advantage in write-intensive applications, such as in space travel or video surveillance. As a memory in mobile devices, this should deliver up to 15 percent better performance (again compared to 96-layer NAND).
All in all, Micron’s fifth-generation 3D NAND SSDs promise larger storage capacities, as more data can be accommodated on smaller memory chips. Earlier end-user models are still a long way from the 10-terabyte limit and cost well over $1,000 as they offer more storage space. If you currently need a lot of data storage and don’t want to invest a fortune, you should resort to cheaper but also significantly slower HDDs.
This is exactly what Micron’s newly introduced 3D NAND with its 176 layers could improve in the future, as users now have access to generously sized but not too expensive SSDs. It remains to be seen whether prices will drop to affordable levels in the volatile flash memory market. However, one thing is certain: the competition is not sleeping and will work on similar technologies, which stimulates the competition and is ultimately positive for the end customer.