A couple of days ago Intel Capital poured $14 million into Silicon Valley semiconductor firm Nanochip. This company is working on a storage chip with a capacity of 100GB.
The Nanochip design is a Micro-Electro-Mechanical System, or MEMS, device. A descendent of IBM’s Millipede device, it uses polarization instead of Millepede’s heat to store data.
An array of tiny probes - looking like phonograph needles, if any of you have ever seen one - less than 25 um in diameter, changes the state of the recording medium. The probes are movable - similar to the mirrors on DLP chips - so they can write more than one location. Since there are many thousands of probes, they have a lot of bandwidth.
The chip is actually 2 chips bonded together. One chip has the array of probes and the other has the media. They are bonded, diced and then mounted in traditional plastic packaging.
The really cool thing is that they can use 10 year old, fully depreciated, fab equipment to build these chips. They don’t need deep UV technology or any of the other costly tricks chip makers use today to scrunch chip sizes. A 1 micron fab is fine. That should translate into much lower costs.
The design is scalable to 1 TB chips, according to Nanochip. How cool is that?
The MEMS-based memory idea has been around for more than ten years but so far no one has figured out how to get these chips into mass production.