A US-based startup says it will next year introduce a single-use memory chip that will be up to 10 times cheaper to produce than existing memory types.

Officials at Matrix Semiconductor said the company's Matrix 3-D Memory is a single-use chip — a chip which permits a user to store data that cannot be subsequently erased — which will next year find its way into a variety of consumer devices, such as digital cameras, MP3 players, PDAs (personal digital assistants) and mobile phones, Matrix said.

The company also sees applications for the chips in prerecorded content, such as music, electronic books, maps and reference guides.

The key benefit of the new memory chips is their low cost. Matrix officials expect to be able to produce Matrix 3-D Memory chips at one tenth of the cost of other types of memory by using 3D chip design technology.

When they go on sale, a single 64MB memory card could cost as little as a roll of 35mm, the firm said.

The technical advance is the 3D chip design, which reduces production costs by increasing the density of transistors on a chip by stacking them in layers, rather than only spreading them outwards horizontally, as is currently done in chip design. The reduction that occurs in the area of the chip allows more chips to be produced on a single silicon wafer and results in a corresponding decrease in cost.

In addition to memory cards, Matrix has also begun to look at using the chips for code storage in PDAs and mobile phones.

Matrix has received financial backing for the development from Microsoft, Sony, Eastman Kodak and Thomson.