Toshiba plans to begin shipping from the middle of this year flash memory chips that are more tightly packed than current models and will make possible even smaller gadgets.
The new chips will be built on production lines that can make chips with transistor gates as small as 32 nanometres in size. A nanometre is a billionth of a metre and the gate-size measurement is the measure by which chip production technology is gauged. As gate sizes get smaller more transistors can be fitted on a chip and its capacity or power is increased.
In the case of Toshiba's flash chips, which the company says are the first in the world at this level, the new versions will be able to cram 32Gbits (4GB) of data on a single chip. Flash memory cards and USB memory sticks typically contain several such chips.
Samples of the new chips are available from Monday and Toshiba plans to begin commercial production in July, which is two months ahead of schedule. At the same time it will begin offering sample chips with 16Gb (2GB) capacity built on the same production line at its Yokkaichi plant in Mie, Japan.
The chip industry is currently moving towards 32nm production. Intel, the world's biggest chip-maker, will put it into use later this year on new processors that are expected to be more powerful than current models in part thanks to the advance in process technology.