When it comes to long-term memory storage, flash drives are increasingly called upon to do the jobs that more traditional hard drives won't. While flash storage is not only more durable than traditional hard drives, it's more importantly faster, which makes it much more desirable. NAND flash storage – the kind commonly found in smartphones, tablets and computers – has some vulnerabilities all its own, but those issues may be on their way out – that is, if engineers at Macronix have any say about it.
A group of Taiwanese engineers operating at Macronix have plans to announce a new kind of NAND flash storage at the 2012 IEEE (News - Alert) International Electron Devices Meeting that addresses these primary problems of NAND flash storage. Under current construction methods, NAND flash storage has something of a shelf life – specifically, about 10,000 read /write cycles before it finally fails. That's good by most standards, but what the Macronix engineers have developed is a new kind of "self-healing" process involving a flash chip and onboard heaters designed to "anneal small groups of memory cells" that looks to upgrade the time to failure from 10,000 cycles to fully 100 million cycles.
Essentially, with the Macronix system, the storage in question could be constantly written and rewritten with minimal chance for breakdown at any given time, making it terrific for those constantly adding and subtracting information from storage. The bad news, however, is that while Macronix's systems are an incredible find – especially for the NAND-heavy mobile industry – there are no plans so far to bring out a commercial version, which means it could be years (if ever) before this new storage hits the market.
Admittedly, there's something to that. Why make a long-term storage product commercially available? It never needs replacing! There's a huge amount of reselling just lost; if a product never breaks, no one needs more of them, which means they'd have to price these prohibitively high just to keep from losing potential future revenue. Sure, for those who have a lot of, say, home videos needing storing, they'd want several of them, but storage companies can't count on that comparatively small market to get them anywhere.
So while this impressive new technology would likely improve storage and improve peoples' lives to boot, chances are it will never actually see the light of day. A shame it may be, but a perfectly rational shame nonetheless.
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