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Samsung samples first 20nm NAND chips

While Intel and GlobalFoundries are still waxing lyrical about the move to 22nm chips, memory maker Samsung has raced ahead of the pack and revealed that it’s already produced the first NAND chips on a miniscule 20nm manufacturing process.

Just to put this into perspective, an average human hair has a width of 90,000nm, which is 4,500 times the width of a transistor in one of these chips. That’s a remarkable feat of engineering, if you ask us.

Based on multi-level cell (MLC) NAND technology, the 32Gb chips are specifically designed to be used in SD memory cards and devices with embedded memory, such as smartphones. Samsung says that it’s already shipping SD cards based on the technology to its customers, and that it plans to expand production later in 2010.

The tiny 20nm circuits will enable Samsung to squeeze many more dies on a wafer than the current 30nm process, which in turn should result in greater yields of working chips at a cheaper cost. In fact, Samsung estimates that the 20nm chips will increase the level of productivity in the manufacturing process by 50 per cent.

As well as this, the smaller and faster-switching transistors in the new chips should also lead to faster performance. According to Samsung, an 8GB SD card based on the 20nm technology will write up to 30 per cent quicker than a comparable card based on 30nm chips.

Various capacities of SD cards based on the 20nm chips will be available, ranging from 4GB to 64GB.