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Flash [computer memory]

Flash [computer memory]

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Ever falling chip geometries are beginning to raise serious doubts as to the long-term viability of flash. Quantum tunnelling is integral to the operation of flash memory, and as chips are getting smaller the ultra-thin tunnelling barrier is becoming increasingly prone to breaking down. A second problem is with the lifetime of flash-based devices, which can be limited to around 100000 cycles. This is fine for some applications, but inadequate where data storage requirements extend over decades. Flash is also quite slow and difficult to program, two problems that are getting more significant as chip areas increase and supply voltages fall. There are three technologies looking to replace flash: magnetic RAM (MRAM), ferroelectric RAM (FRAM) and ovonic RAM. All of these use new materials to create truly nonvolatile memories with long lifetimes. Getting any one of them to replace flash in the marketplace will depend on producing a sufficiently small memory cell, while at the same time minimising the number of additional processing steps required.

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