Samsung‘s dynamic RAM, or DRAM, technology has definitely come a long way. Back in 2010 is tarted mass producing 40 nanometer DDR3 chips. In 2014, it jumped to the new 20 nanometer process for DDR3 DRAM. Now, two years later, it halved that figure again by introducing an industry first. The Korean OEM has announced that start of mass production of what it bills as the world’s first DDR4 DRAM chip that uses the latest and smallest 10 nanometer semiconductor fabrication process, paving the way for faster, more efficient memory to power the next generation of computers, both personal and enterprise.
Semiconductor manufacturing processes are described in “nanometers”, with 10 nm being the latest and hottest technology in use today. In addition to cramming more cells on a single die of silicon, the 10 nm process promises faster data transfer rates at less power consumption. To be specific, the 10 nm DDR4 is advertised to have a data transfer rate of 3,200 Mbps, marked 30% faster than a 20 nm DDR4’s 2,400 Mbps. At the same time, it consumes 10 to 20 percent less power than the 20 nm equivalent.
Samsung is understandably proud of the proprietary technologies it utilized to pull of this manufacturing feat. 10 nm for DRAM is very new and more difficult to accomplish compared to NAND flash storage used in SSDs and memory cards. While NAND makes use of only a transistor per cell, DRAM has to cram both a transistor and a capacitor in that same space, with the capacitor usually on top. Multiply that by 8 million cells for this particular chip, and you’ve got one great manufacturing puzzle to solve.
The new Samsung 10 nm DDR4 chip has a capacity of 8 Gigabits (Gb), not Gigabytes (GB). That means that a single chip can accommodate 1 GB of memory. These chips are usually combined into DD4 modules of 4 GB or 128 GB, for personal computers and servers, respectively.
Samsung definitely won’t be resting on its 10 nm laurels. Using the lessons learned from its DRAM chips, Samsung will proceed to manufacturing 10 nm mobile DRAM equivalents for mobile devices. That will also bring its own set of puzzles, considering the greater space and power constraints mobile memory requires. However, that won’t happen until later this year, perhaps in time for the next Samsung Galaxy Note, which almost always showcases Samsung’s latest silicon innovation.