Flash memory cells shrink in size

STMicroelectronics is producing embedded flash memory in volume quantities on its 0.18-micron process technology with cells that...

STMicroelectronics is producing embedded flash memory in volume quantities on its 0.18-micron process technology with cells that measure just 0.37 square microns.

Devices such as engine management units for cars and consumer entertainment devices are among the potential applications for this technology, which is available in arrays of up to 10Mbits, ST.

A flash memory cell is equal to one bit of information. Smaller flash memory cells mean chip makers can design smaller flash memory chips, reducing the cost of materials and price of the chips.

Discrete flash memory products are already being manufactured on 0.13-micron process technologies, said Rich Wawrzyniak, a senior analyst at Semico Research. Discrete flash memory is purchased by itself for devices such as mobile phones, while embedded flash memory is designed right into the ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) chip used in other embedded devices.

Many chip makers are still manufacturing embedded chips on the 0.18-micron process technology because of yield problems experienced by some with the state-of-the-art 0.13-micron process technology, Wawrzyniak said.

Because embedded chips sell for much less than PC or server processors, yields are very important, he said. The yield is the percentage of working chips cut from a silicon wafer.

Smaller flash memory cells can probably be found that were manufactured on a 0.13-micron process technology, but there is still demand for the 0.18-micron chips, Wawrzyniak said.

ST is likely to use the flash memory cells in its own ASIC and embedded chips, rather than licensing it to competitors, he added.

Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service

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