Samsung Electronics, the world leader in advanced memory technology, announced that it has created the world’s largest hard drive. At the Flash Memory Summit in California this past week, Samsung unveiled its golden child, the PM1633a, which uses NAND flash chips rather than spinning platters and crams almost 16 terabytes into a 2.5 inch SSD package.
The competition pales in comparison to the PM1633a which blows the next nearest hard drive made by Seagate and Western Digital currently maxed out at 10 TB.
The secret behind Samsung's 16TB SSD is the company's new 256Gbit (32GB) NAND flash die which boasts twice the capacity of 128 GB NAND dies that were commercialized by various chip makers last year. Samsung has managed to cram 48 layers of 3-bits-per-cell (TLC) 3D V-NAND into a single die, up from the 24 layers in 2013 and 36 layers in 2014.
In the new V-NAND chip, each cell utilizes the same 3D Charge Trap Flash (CTF) structure in which the cell arrays are stacked vertically to form a 48-storied mass that is electrically connected through some 1.8 billion channel holes punching through the arrays thanks to a special etching technology. In total, each chip contains over 85.3 billion cells. They each can store 3 bits of data, resulting in 256 billion bits of data. In other words, 256 GB on a chip is no larger than the tip of a finger.
Historically, like most computer chips, NAND flash has been planar in that, the functional structures on the chip are generally laid down on a single two-dimensional plane. In a similar way to how logic chips are moving towards 3D transistors (FinFETs), electronic titans Samsung, Toshiba, and Intel have been forging ahead with 3D NAND.
A simple way of understanding how Samsung accomplished this is to envision that everything is turned on its side-so, instead of having just one layer of memory cells on a single plane, you can now have dozens of layers of cells, all standing up next to each other.
In fact, the "V" in Samsung's V-NAND refers to the vertical nature of these cells. Process-wise, 3D NAND is very complex, but the massive potential density increase makes it worthwhile. With innovations like this, no wonder Samsung has been neck and neck with Apple as the two electronics superpowers.
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