Intel and Micron have announced the development of the world's first 128Gbit (16GB) multilevel-cell NAND flash memory chip made using a 20nm manufacturing process technology that incorporates high-K metal gate transistors. Scheduled for mass production in the first half of 2012, the new NAND will enable up to a terabit (128GB) of data storage in a finger-tip size package using eight die, and it meets the high-speed ONFI 3.0 specification to achieve speeds of 333 megatransfers per second (MT/s).

Intel and Micron said that the key to their success with their 20nm process technology is a new planar cell structure, which enables more aggressive cell scaling than conventional architectures, while maintaining performance and reliability on par with previous generation NAND chips.

The joint venture also announced it is moving a 20nm 64Gb NAND flash product into mass production this month. The new 20nm 64Gbit (8GB) chip measures just 118mm2 and enables a 30% to 40% reduction in board space (depending on package type) compared to their existing 25nm 64Gbit (8GB) NAND device.

Designed for use in tablets, smartphones and high-capacity solid-state drives, the smaller 20nm NAND memory will enable manufacturers to either cram more capacity into their gadgets or use the extra space for other end-product improvements such as a bigger battery, larger screen or adding new hardware features. It should also help reduce NAND costs over time as yields reach optimal levels.