Intel Doubles Capacity of Phase-Change Memory, the Next Step After Flash

Illustration for article titled Intel Doubles Capacity of Phase-Change Memory, the Next Step After Flash

Sure, its exciting to see flash memory drop in price and increase in capacity, but flash isn't the end-all-be-all. In fact, we already know what it'll be replaced by before it's even become the de facto standard: phase-change memory. And Intel just figured out how to double the capacity of phase-change memory, shortening flash's lifespan before it's even really taken off.


So what exactly is phase-change memory?

Phase-change memory differs from other solid-state memory technologies such as flash and random-access memory because it doesn't use electrons to store data. Instead, it relies on the material's own arrangement of atoms, known as its physical state. Previously, phase-change memory was designed to take advantage of only two states: one in which atoms are loosely organized (amorphous), and another where they are rigidly structured (crystalline).

Now, Intel has discovered that there are two more distinct states between amorphous and crystalline that can be used to store information, doubling the capacity of the memory.

Phase-change is superior to flash as it's much faster. It's as fast as the DRAM and SRAM that's used in conjunction with flash memory now. When phase-change becomes standard, it would be all that was necessary rather than a DRAM or SRAM module that reads and writes data quickly while the flash memory is just there to store data when the power is off.

Don't worry, though. Phase-change memory won't be hitting consumer devices for another few years, so your expensive flash-equipped devices won't be going obsolete… yet. [Technology Review via Slashdot]


"...shortening flash's lifespan before it's even really taken off"

What!? Flash memory was invented in 1984 (by Toshiba) and has been enormously successful. Memory cards, mobile phone SIM cards, MP3 players, etc, all use flash. Even if flash were to be obsolete tomorrow it'd still be remembered as having been a massive success.

Just because flash-based SSDs are only just taking off doesn't mean that flash memory is.