Self-baking NAND flash memory promises to last longer — way longer

Don't get too excited, as no one is talking commercial availability just yet. But a memory manufacturer has developed a way to make NAND flash last more than 1000 times longer than it does today.

Let's rewind a minute. Each memory "cell" in conventional NAND flash has a limited number of program/erase (PE) cycles. Even a read operation weakens the charge that maintains the data bits. As a result, the NAND cells in your notebook, smartphone, thumb drive, or tablet can often handle only a few thousand PE cycles before they start losing bits. And who wants to lose bits?

Enter Macronix. Using a technique that briefly heats individual cells to 800C (yes, hotter than your kitchen stove), their innovative new NAND flash technology can handle 100 million PE cycles.

I must admit, my first reaction was "so what?". People go through mobile devices like potato chips, so do they really need flash memory that keeps running year after year? But then I thought, what if you're embedding flash in a car that might be on the road for 15 years? Or in an industrial control system that might be deployed once and never replaced? (The QNX OS can be found in industrial systems that have run for 15 or 20 years without a hardware upgrade, so this isn't an academic question.)

There's another reason why this is welcome news. As process size shrinks, so does the usable life of NAND flash. The new technology from Macronix may enable our future devices to offer much more memory, without the downside of a short lifespan.

I'm not an expert on flash memory, so please comment if you have further insight as to how this new technology could benefit future devices.

For more on this development, see the articles on Ars Technica and ExtremeTech.