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Startup Claims Game-Changing Memory Advancement

A Silicon Valley startup that has been secretly developing a NAND flash alternative for seven years introduced Tuesday memory technology that it claims is faster than flash and packs far more storage in the same amount of space.

Unity Semiconductor is hoping its technology will become a replacement for the flash memory used today in solid-state drives for laptops and in chips that provide storage for smartphones such as Apple's iPhone, portable media players, and other mobile devices. NAND flash is used in such devices because it can retain data when the power is off.

Unity claims to have built prototypes of its "CMOx" memory technology and plans to start offering a 64-Gb chip by mid-2011, which is about twice the capacity of today's NAND flash technology.

"We see ourselves in the two-year horizon for production volumes of our first product, a 64-Gb storage-class memory," Darrell Rinerson, president and chief executive of Unity, said in a statement. Rinerson is a former executive of Micron Technology and Advanced Micro Devices.

Unity's innovation is in the way it stores data. While traditional flash memory uses transistors, Unity has based its technology on ions and the way they move through certain materials. As a result, the company can stack more memory on top of each other to increase storage on the same footprint, while achieving five to 10 times the write speed of today's flash, Rinerson said.

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