SanDisk CEO: Flash to Hit ‘Brick Wall’

It's running out of electrons.

Moore’s Law represents all that’s great about the breakneck speed of computer advancement but it seems there is one surprising area where it may soon fall down: flash memory.

Speaking to the New York Times, SanDisk CEO and storage guru Eli Harari has warned both companies and consumers “We’re looking at a brick wall five years down the road.”

“We are running out of electrons,” Harari explained about a technology which has doubled an incredible 14 times in 19 years. “When we started out we had about one million electrons per cell (the locations where information is stored on a chip). We are now down to a few hundred. We can’t get below one.”

So will we suddenly be locked to maximum flash memory sizes in future? Well yes and no. “When Manhattan ran out of space, they built skyscrapers,” said Harari. “It’s the same for us.” What Harari means by this is so-called ‘stacking’ whereby multiple layers of memory cells are placed upon one another. SanDisk bought Matrix Semiconductor, a specialist investigating this concept, more than four years ago but currently the technology only works for write-one memory – hardly ideal for devices like memory cards and SSDs.

At present no stacking material has been found which will enable re-writes. “When you have a new material, all bets are off,” Harari admitted. “Until you have it, you don’t have anything.”

That said, five years is long time in technology terms and we’ll certainly keep the faith…

via The NYT