How To Get Flash Memory To Last: Bake It

NAND flash is pretty much everywhere, at this point — your smartphone, your gaming console, your more modern appliances. That’s because it’s cheap, roomy, and small, the Honda Fit of electronic components. There is, however, one problem: Its short lifespan. But that that may be licked in a very odd way.

For those who aren’t boring nerds such as yours truly, your flash memory eventually wears out because every time you alter it, you’re essentially physically changing the memory. It’s like bending a piece of cardboard first one way and then the other — eventually it’s going to rip in half. This problem also gets worse the smaller flash memory gets; at the projected 8 nm transistors we’ll be seeing in the near future, you can read/write on it just 1000 times. This isn’t so bad if you’re writing on it once, but if you use it over and over again, such as on a USB flash drive, you’re in trouble.

We’ve known for a while that heat can fix this problem: It restores the cells to their unwrecked state. But it wipes the memory and it takes hours and lots of heat to do, so it’s cheaper to just make more NAND flash.

Until now. Researchers for Micronix, which makes a lot of flash memory, have figured out a way to essentially apply the heat directly to the chip’s transistors, so a brief shot of 800 degrees of heat makes formerly dead flash memory alive and ready to receive data again. In other words, instead of your electronics dying and having to be scrapped, they’re now easily repaired.

This isn’t the only time heat has been shown to improve computer memory, either — hard drives that use heat to write, and thus are hundreds of times faster, are already in development. So aside from destroying your other components, heat is a good thing!