Memories Linger On

Old memory technologies are reluctant to die. Last week, IBM announced advances in 40 year-old phase change memory; this week, Toshiba and Hynix announce another push on 20 year-old MRAM.

The challenge for these usurpers to NAND is getting near to NAND's density - now at 64Gbit.

The densest commercial phase change chip ever sold is 128Mbit. Last week's announcement by IBM of a two-bit-per-cell phase change helps, but doesn't get phase-change anywhere near the memory mainstream.

Toshiba and Hynix will focus on the spin-transfer torque approach to MRAM - a relatively new development in the long MRAM saga which has seen initiatives from: IBM, Infineon, Honeywell, NEC, Cypress, Motorola/Freescale which spun off their MRAM team to Everspin Technologies, Sony, Hitachi, Renesas, Samsung, Micron and Crocus.

MRAM densities have so far been even behind phase-change:

Infineon produced a 16Mbit MRAM prototype in 2004;

Honeywell offered a 1Mbit device for sale in 2005;

Toshiba and NEC demo-ed a 16Mbit device in 2006;

Freescale were selling a 4Mbit MRAM for $25 in 2006;

Hitachi and Toshiba showed off a 32Mbit device in 2009 and, the following year, last year, showed a multi-level cell MRAM.

While NAND is halfway to Tbit density, MRAM still hasn't migrated from the Mbit level.

Hynix, nonetheless, seems excited by the technology. "MRAM is a rare gem full of exciting properties," enthuses Hynix CEO Oh Chul Kwon.

We'll see.



  1. @George – oddly enough one of the molecular level memory technologies I recently saw at a university research department sounded remarkedly similar to bubble memory :-)

  2. Yes indeed Dr Bob, though I understand MRAM writes on the same principle as magnetic cores so maybe it’s more a case of plus ca change . . .

  3. Don’t forget ‘core’ memory!

  4. Now there’s a thought, george, I wonder if in some far-off lab someone is working away on it.

  5. What will be next? A new advance in bubble memories?

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