Samsung Develops New PRAM Memory Chip

Samsung Electronics Co. on Monday unveiled a new type of memory chip that it said will allow digital devices to work faster by saving new data more quickly.

The phase-change random access memory, or PRAM, chip is nonvolatile, meaning it will retain data even when an electronic device is turned off, and is about 30 times faster than conventional flash memory, Samsung said.

It is expected to be available in 2008, Samsung said. A 512-megabit prototype PRAM device was unveiled at a news conference in Seoul on Monday.

Currently, two types of nonvolatile flash memory chips -- NOR and NAND -- are widely used in electronic devices.

NOR chips are suitable for running software directly, but are slower and are more expensive to manufacture, while NAND chips are easier to make in larger capacities but are more suitable for large data files, such as MP3 music.

Samsung said the PRAM chips use vertical diodes and a three-dimensional transistor structure to create a small cell size. Unlike NOR and NAND chips, they don't need to first erase any old data in a separate step before storing any new data, it said.

Samsung also unveiled on Monday a 32-gigabit NAND flash memory chip based on finer 40-nanometer process technology -- the size of the smallest circuit elements on the chip. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter.

Currently, the bulk of Samsung's flash memory chips are produced using 70-nanometer process technology.

Using finer process technology allows more to be fit on a semiconductor chip and reduces power requirements.

Flash memory chips are used extensively in digital music devices, digital cameras and mobile phones.

Samsung is the world's largest memory chip maker and a top producer of consumer electronics, including flat-screen televisions, mobile phones, MP3 players and laptop computers.

The company, based in Suwon, South Korea, recorded a net profit of 7.64 trillion won ($8 billion) on sales of 57.46 trillion won ($60 billion) in 2005.


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