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Taiwanese Engineers Revolutionize Memory Storage

Submitted by on December 2, 2012 – 6:26 pm3 Comments

Headlines today are boldly declaring that engineers in Taiwan “defeat[ed] limits of flash memory.” As a non-techie, I immediately thought, “Great… but what the heck does that mean in practical terms?” That next generation of data storage and operating systems, that’s what.

Physics.org reports that researchers at Marconix overcame an established limitation of flash memory: it’s tendency to wear out “after being programmed and erased about 10,000 times.” Scientists had long known that heat could be used to reduce this effect, but had no practical way of administering it- until the Macronix team discovered that they could produce the same positive effect by occasionally giving a quick jolt of heat to a very small area, instead of hours of heat to the whole microchip. Such a jolt can use “onboard heaters” built into the chip.

Ok, but once again, what’s in it for you?

Flash memory is utilized by solid-state drives (SSDs), an alternative to traditional hard disk drives (HDDs). Hard drives use rapidly rotating disks, which can slow down computers, overheat,  make a lot of noise, and wear out with usage. SSDs have no moving parts. They have been gaining popularity for being more resilient to shock, and this advance will ensure that SSD performance advantages won’t fade even after years of use.

Commentors on social news site Reddit were thrilled. Discussing boot-up times for computers, one user said, “we’ll have instant-on OS’s in just a generation or two.”

What do you think about the latest advances in flash memory?

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