Toshiba — the world's No. 2 NAND flash memory maker behind Samsung according to Reuters — is preparing the next advance in flash technology with even denser memory chips (similar to the silicon wafer pictured above). The company currently products circuitry with widths of 32 and 43 nanometers, and wants to move into the 20s with 25nm chips.
Denser chips means more memory can be packed into the same-sized space. It's advances like this that are why flash drives have gone from half a gigabyte to multiple gigs over the last decade. It's not as simple as just flicking a switch, however — entire factories have to be retooled to allow for the production of more dense memory. Still, take a look at the price of a 16GB flash drive, which is roughly today's sweet spot for a well-priced thumbstick at $20-$30. As storage tech advances, larger drives will push the rest down, and you'll be able to get much more for you buck.
The new chips could arrive as early as later this year, though they probably won't be exactly 25nm, clocking in somewhere either a little wider or even a little narrow. To give you an idea of how fast this field moves, we could see sub-20nm chips as soon as 2012.