This Incredible New 3D Tech Could Finally Give You A 1+ Terabyte iPad

This Incredible New 3D Tech Could Finally Give You A 1+ Terabyte iPad

SSDs are great! They make your computer run as if they were filled with greased lightning. That spinning beach ball stops spinning quite so much, and those apps struggling to load quit doing so much bouncing. Your computer gains instant-on functionality, better battery life, and ridiculously quick boot times. Win-win!

There’s only one problems: SSDs (like those found in the Retina MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iPhone or iPad) don’t have the same high capacity as physical spinning drives. That’s a problem if you’re the kind of user who carries around a terrabyte of media with him at all times. Luckily, it looks like SSDs limitations when it comes to capacity sizes is about to change.

Here’s the problem with SSDs right now: the process of building them is strictly 2D. Most SSDs are made up of groups of transistors that have been formed into long strings of NAND gates which store your data.

But these strings? Purely Flatland. That means that to make SSDs have higher capacities, scientists need to either figure out how to make the transistors smaller or make the actual SSDs bulkier.

But what if, instead of making these transistors snake along in a line like a parade, SSDs could embrace three-dimensions, and have the parade of transistors do the equivalent of snaking up, floor-by-floor, inside a sort of NAND skyscraper? In other words, build the transistors on top of each other, layer by layer? You’d be able to fit more capacity in the same space.

That’s what a company called Applied Materials has created: a new etching system that will make 3D transistors. It’s tricky, though. Applied Materials say that building 3D NAND structures is like building a one kilometer deep and three kilometer long hole in the earth with walls exactly three meters apart. Not impossible, but a serious engineering challenging.

When this technology really takes off, what we’ll see are multi-terrabyte SSDs at affordable prices. Imagine a Retina MacBook Pro with a 2TB drive, or an iPhone with 256GBs of storage. It won’t happen anytime in the next couple of years, but it will happen eventually.

  • rick_tap

    “It won’t happen anytime in the next couple of years, but it will happen eventually.”
    I don’t think that it will take us too long, to have 256gb ssd’s inside the iPad. I remember buying a 20gb hdd for 100$, not too long after buying a 4gb hdd for 100$. These days I would get 2TB, same price.
    I bought a 128gb ssd for 120$. I’d almost get a 256gb ssd for the same price now.
    Technology became so increasingly fast, that I don’t think, it’ll take more then 3 years to have a 256gb iPad.
    Prices are dropping and new technologies become available almost every other hour.

  • Solowalker

    As much as I’d love to see this, this would be about the 4th or so new technology promising this. Among other older ones posited previously are holographic storage (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holographic_data_storage), which is turning into being better suited as an optical disc replacement, and IBM’s Race Track memory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racetrack_memory), which is perpetually delayed.
    I’d love a faster, cheaper, denser replacement to flash storage but I’m not holding my breath anymore. :(

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John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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