Ruminations on the electronics industry from David Manners, Senior Components Editor on Electronics Weekly.

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.

Tags: crocus, hynix, infineon, memory technologies, torque

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  1. Mike Bryant
    July 15, 2011 13:32

    @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. David Manners
    July 15, 2011 11:14

    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. Dr Bob
    July 15, 2011 10:47

    Don’t forget ‘core’ memory!

  4. David Manners
    July 14, 2011 22:28

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

  5. georgegrimes
    July 14, 2011 15:21

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

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