Scientists at Infineon Technologies Build the World's Smallest Non-Volatile Flash Memory Cell

Dec 16, 2004
Scientists at Infineon Technologies Build the World's Smallest Non-Volatile Flash Memory Cell

In a research breakthrough that has broken records in the semiconductor industry, scientists at Infineon Technologies AG have built the world’s smallest non-volatile flash memory cell. The new memory cell is measuring a mere 20 nanometers – approximately 5,000 times thinner than a human hair. Given that all manufacturing-related challenges - including that of the lithography - can be resolved, the new development would make nonvolatile memory chips with a capacity of 32 Gbit possible within a few years. That is eight times the capacity of what is currently available on the market.

Nonvolatile flash memories are becoming increasingly popular as mass storage media for devices such as digital cameras, camcorders and USB sticks. The most advanced nonvolatile flash memory devices available today can permanently store one or two bits of information per memory cell without a supply voltage. Such memories have a feature size of around 90 nanometers, and shrinking this feature size using typical techniques to half that size has posed many problems because of nanoscale physical effects. In particular, fabricating 20 nanometer-sized flash memory cells has been considered well nigh impossible because these physical effects would make the memory cells extremely unreliable.

The Infineon researchers overcame this challenge by creating a unique three-dimensional structure with a fin for the transistor that acts as the heart of the memory cell. The special geometry minimizes unwanted effects and significantly improves electrostatic control compared to today’s flat transistors. Called a FinFET (Fin Field Effect Transistor), the Infineon device stores the electrons which carry the information in a nitride layer that lies electrically isolated between the silicon fin and the gate electrode. Just 8 nanometers thin, the fin is controlled by the 20 nanometer-wide gate electrode.

The FinFET is also extremely durable and possesses excellent electrical characteristics. For example, the most advanced memories on the market today need approximately 1,000 electrons in order to reliably remember one bit. The new Infineon memory cell uses just 100 electrons; an additional 100 electrons stores a second bit in the same transistor. For comparison’s sake, 100 electrons roughly correspond to the number of electrons in a single gold atom. Despite these minimal charge levels, the sample of Infineon’s Munich laboratories showed excellent electrical characteristics.

Details about the new flash memory were presented at a post-deadline paper at the IEEE’s International Electron Devices Meeting in San Francisco yesterday.

Explore further: Researchers discover low-grade nonwoven cotton picks up 50 times own weight of oil

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Semiconductor giant Infineon upgrades outlook

Nov 19, 2009

German semi-conductor maker Infineon on Thursday upgraded its turnover and profits forecast over the next 12 months because of higher demand from the auto industry and cost cuts.

Infineon launches SOLID FLASH technology

Dec 07, 2010

Infineon Technologies AG today at the "Cartes & Identification" Trade Show in Paris announced the introduction of 90nm SOLID FLASH technology for its new generation of security ICs. With SOLID FLASH, Infineon is the worldwide ...

Recommended for you

Light pulses control graphene's electrical behavior

16 hours ago

Graphene, an ultrathin form of carbon with exceptional electrical, optical, and mechanical properties, has become a focus of research on a variety of potential uses. Now researchers at MIT have found a way to control how ...

User comments : 0