has been published in the December 2012 edition of IEEE Spectrum that highlights an interesting and potentially useful discovery by ROM manufacturer Macronix
. Researchers there have discovered that applying heat to NAND flash cells can drastically extend their life, thus overcoming one of the biggest problems with the solid state storage technology.
NAND flash is used everywhere, from smartphones to SSDs to thumb drives, and we've written extensively before on how it works
. The technology's biggest failing is that NAND flash only lives so long. Every time the flash cells are erased, they retain some residual charge; eventually, they get to where it takes so long to make them change their charge level that they stop being useful as a storage medium.
As NAND flash grows denser, it gets more delicate; in our discussion on the future of flash
, we discuss the decreasing lifetimes of NAND flash and the potential alternatives. SSDs rely on complex mathematical gymnastics at the controller level to reduce writes and hence lengthen the life of their flash cells, but the need for those kinds of workarounds could be substantially lessened by the Macronix discovery.