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