Applications driving solid-state mass-storage.
The evolution of ICT technology has allowed the diffusion of small portable systems to enable communication, web browsing, and data/information services as well as multimedia entertainment from any place and at any time. Most, if not all, of these applications require the handling and storage of large amounts of data. The evolution of the applications and services also indicate a growing need for ever-larger capacity of data storage memories, from GB’s to 100GB’s or even Terabyte range.
While different mass storage technologies exist, the volume factor of the handheld devices strongly favours the solid-state memory systems, because of overall size, ruggedness and energy efficiency (dictated by limited battery capacity), requiring low-power programming and storage. Non-volatile memory (NVM) is of course ideal for zero-power storage. These tendencies are indeed reflected in the booming market of (mainly NAND) FLASH memories, for use in mobile phones, netbooks, tablet PC’s, digital camera’s and MP3 portable players.
The project aims at the development of a sub-50nm technology for very high density Non Volatile memories. As such, it addresses some key topics of the Work Programme 2007 of the 7th Framework Programme, and especially those included in Theme3: Information and Communication Technologies, and more specifically, the topics included in Challenge 3: Components, systems, engineering, where it is stated that:
The challenge is to strengthen Europe’s position as a leading supplier of electronic components and systems.
Indeed the first most important impact expected from the project is to strengthen the competitiveness of European Nanoelectronics supply industry across a complete value-chain involving large, mid-sized and small companies, enabling European industry to lead and anticipate progress in the context of the ITRS roadmap.
The market impact of the target NAND Flash technology can be very large. The original market forecast given in 2007, when the proposal was submitted, based on i–Supply data was giving a projection for NAND memories of 1.5 Billion parts in 2008, more than half of which in mobile terminals.
More recent data from Web-Feet Research (2009 report), consolidate the 2008 market at more than 4 Billion units, with a constant growth in sales and revues in spite of the 2009 market crisis. The total value of NAND market in 2010 was forecasted at little more than 15B$, which is a little short of more recent estimates (18 B$)
The reason of this accelerated growth, even exceeding the most optimistic expectations at the start of the project, is mainly due to the strong growth of mobile applications. As it is shown below, while mobile phones remain a large part of the market, the widespread introduction of consumer applications (digital cameras and camcorders, MP3 players) and especially a new generation of mobile CAP (Computer and Peripheral ) devices, like netbooks and tablet PC’s is strongly driving the market. It is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish among the applications, since there is a tendency to combine communications, web access and image/sound recording in the same device, be it Smart Phone or tablet PC.
By including also equipment suppliers the impact of this market growth can reach all across the supply chain.
A second impact of the project will be on ICT applications. There is no doubt that low-cost, high capacity, solid-state memories, will be needed to allow the continuation of present trend of performance increase and cost reduction, beyond year 2010, and to make all advanced applications foreseen in the IST Programme available to a broad public.
Among the applications that will be based on low cost solid-state memories there are:
- maps for navigation systems;
- image storage for portable communication systems;
- data storage in consumer electronics;
- information storage for portable computers;
- storage of medical records;
- data base for image recognition and biometric systems.
A market forecast for different applications is shown below.
A third impact concerns its contribution towards improving cooperation between research and industry, therefore helping to bring research closer to innovation and industrial exploitation, and, at the same time, improving the scientific competence of European research centers on memory technology.