Intel rolls out phase-change chips

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Intel has announced its first prototype phase-change memory (PCM) chips..

Code-named 'Alverstone' the new chips offer higher read and write speeds, and have a longer lifespan than current transistor-based Flash memory chips.

The new chips were designed as a joint effort between Intel and STMicroelectronics.

The two companies plan to make Alverstone the cornerstone of Numonyx, a new chip business formed from elements of each company. The deal is expected to close later this year.

PCM chips store each bit of data in a small piece of chalcogenide glass which changes states between crystalline and amorphous as opposed to an open or closed transistor.

The chips do not require a constant flow of electricity to retain data, making them an ideal replacement for Flash memory.

"This is the most significant non-volatile memory advancement in 40 years," said Ed Doller, chief technology officer-designate at Numonyx.

"There have been plenty of attempts to find and develop new non-volatile memory technologies [but] PCM provides the most compelling solution."

The prototype Alverstone chips will be provided to system builders to design new devices for release when the PCM chips enter production.

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