Intel And Micron Partner To Make Flash Drives Infinitely Large

For many, it's not difficult to remember back when USB flash drives topped out at around 8GB and demanded a near fortune. Today, these minuscule drives are near ubiquitous, and with flash prices in free fall, a rather sizable one (capacity wise, not size wise) can be had for not too much dough.

But, even big corporations like Intel and Micron know that 128GB in your pocket just isn't enough for some (or even 256GB), so we're not surprised to hear that the two have joined together in order to spearhead development in the realm and pave the way for 1TB+ flash drives. Specifically, the duo today announced the development of a new 3-bit-per-cell (3bpc) multi-level cell (MLC) NAND technology, which takes advantage of their heralded 34-nanometer NAND process.

Just in case you didn't get the memo, these chips that they're working on are traditionally used in storage devices such as flash cards and USB drives, where high density and cost-efficiency are paramount. IM Flash Technologies (IMFT), which is the name of their new NAND flash joint venture, is responsible for designing and manufacturing the new 3bpc NAND technology. The result is the industry’s smallest and most cost-effective 32-gigabit (Gb) chip. Thankfully, this is all well beyond the whole "pie in the sky" stage, as Micron is currently sampling and should enter mass production in Q4 2009. Brian Shirley, vice president of Micron’s memory group, had this to say about the partnership and development:

"We see 3bpc NAND technology as an important piece of our roadmap. We also continue to move forward on further shrinks in NAND that will provide our customers with a world-leading portfolio of products for many years to come. Today’s announcement further highlights that Micron and Intel have made great strides in 34-nanometer NAND, and we look forward to introducing our 2xnm technology later this year."

Will we ever see a flash drive larger than the biggest currently-available hard drive? If it's up to these two, we'd surmise that the answer is "yes."