electron microscope photo of cross-section of 32GB microSD card

Two — no, three — things in life are sure: Death, taxes, and the fact that storage manufacturers will continue to cram ever-more ridiculous quantities of memory into tinier packages.

SanDisk announced a new 32-GB microSDHC card on Monday, effectively doubling the maximum storage capacity of the tiny, less-than-dime-sized memory chips found in many modern smartphones. This is the maximum capacity that the HC-format microSD cards can hold, so any further advances will have to wait until manufacturers start installing microSD-XC slots in their phones.

The advance means it is now possible to swallow an entire 7,000-song iTunes library, or 10 hours of uncompressed HD video, without gagging.

SanDisk says its new card will be available for purchase on its website starting Tuesday, and through retail channels shortly thereafter.

(Samsung announced a 32-GB microSD card earlier this year, but the card does not appear to be available to consumers yet.)

With a retail price of $200 and a weight of just 0.5 grams, you’ll want to be extra-careful with this minuscule memory chip, as it’s worth about 11 times its weight in gold.

To achieve the increased capacity, SanDisk did two things: Switch to a 32-nanometer production process, and stack eight memory chips vertically inside the microSD card.

The first change refers to the size of a typical memory component, which is now around 32nm, or about the same size as the circuits used in Intel’s latest Core i3 and Core i5 chips. Using smaller circuitry enables the company to cram more bits onto a wafer of silicon.

The second change is pure micromechanical engineering. Although a microSD card is only 1mm thick, including the plastic housing, SanDisk’s engineers have managed to squeeze a vertical stack of eight memory chips inside it. Each chip holds 4 GB of data, so altogether the stack holds 32 GB.

“You’re basically talking about an entire jukebox on a flash memory chip the size of your pinkie fingernail,” said SanDisk vice president Eric Bone.

SanDisk microSDHC Cards (product site)

SanDisk First to Ship 32 Gigabyte microSDHC Card (press release)

Photos courtesy SanDisk

Originally published on Wired’s Gadget Lab blog