MRAM production gains momentum as Japanese and US companies team up

A group of over twenty US and Japanese companies is looking to replace the traditional DRAM by mass-producing a superior memory technology known as MRAM.

MRAM stands for 'Magnetoresistive Random Access Memory'; It has been in development for well over a decade as an alternative to traditional DRAM, but hasn't really been picked up by chip-makers until now. Memory chips based on this technology are reported to be 10 times faster than DRAM while using less power which can prove beneficial for battery-powered portable devices.

We first heard about MRAM in 2002 when Toshiba and NEC announced that they would complete the development of the technology by 2005. However, the companies insisted that they wouldn't commercialize the product. IBM and Infineon later committed to make the technology commercially available by 2005. Later in 2006, Freescale started selling 4Mbit MRAM chips for $25 each. None of these efforts made the kind of impact expected by the computing industry.

Now, an alliance of over twenty companies from the US and Japan has committed to bringing MRAM based chips to the masses by 2018 according to a report in Nikkei's Asian Review.

The companies will aim at researching techniques for making mass-production of the MRAM chips possible, which has been one of the key factors in the delay of mainstream MRAM presence. Companies such as Tokyo Electron, Shin-Etsu Chemical, Renesas Electronics, Hitachi and Micron Technology are reportedly part of the alliance.

Researchers from the companies will be working on development from February at the Tohoku University in Japan, under professor Tetsuo Endoh to achieve the goal.

DRAM has been part of computing for a long time and has been updated to meet modern day requirements from time to time, but hasn't received a drastic overhaul as yet. If MRAM makes it to the masses by 2018 we can expect more powerful and next generation of smartphones and portable devices in the future.

Source: CNET | Image via ZDNet

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14 Comments

Wow, did not know neowin existed that long. More surprising is that you guys remember ed about that post. Goodjob!

from wiki:

Overall[edit]

MRAM has similar performance to SRAM, similar density to DRAM but much lower power consumption than DRAM, and is much faster and suffers no degradation over time in comparison to flash memory. It is this combination of features that some suggest make it the “universal memory”, able to replace SRAM, DRAM, EEPROM, and flash. This also explains the huge amount of research being carried out into developing it.

However, to date, MRAM has not been as widely adopted in the market as other non-volatile RAMs. It may be that vendors are not prepared to take the risk of allocating a modern fab to MRAM production when such fabs cost upwards of a few billion dollars to build and can instead generate revenue by serving developed markets producing flash and DRAM memories.

The very latest fabs seem to be used for flash, for example producing 16 Gbit parts produced by Samsung on a 50 nm process.[12] Slightly older fabs are being used to produce most DDR2 DRAM, most of which is produced on a one-generation-old 90 nm process rather than using up scarce leading-edge capacity.

"In comparison, MRAM is still largely "in development", and being produced on older non-critical fabs. The only commercial product widely available at this point is Everspin's 4 Mbit part, produced on a several-generations-old 180 nm process. As demand for flash continues to outstrip supply, it appears that it will be some time before a company can afford to "give up" one of their latest fabs for MRAM production. Even then, MRAM designs currently do not come close to flash in terms of cell size, even using the same fab.[citation needed]"

Seems like a no brainer, the sooner the better I think!

duddit2 said,
Seems like a no brainer, the sooner the better I think!

How is swapping from volatile memory to non-volatile a "no brainer"? I'd rather have volatile personally (lost when the power is turned off). I'm sure the NSA is pushing MRAM to become standard though.

funkydude said,

How is swapping from volatile memory to non-volatile a "no brainer"? I'd rather have volatile personally (lost when the power is turned off). I'm sure the NSA is pushing MRAM to become standard though.


O.o

funkydude said,

How is swapping from volatile memory to non-volatile a "no brainer"? I'd rather have volatile personally (lost when the power is turned off).

Your data is stored on your hard drive, and I really doubt the NSA is going to be going around to everyone's house and taking their computers to see what they have stored on their mram chips. Unless you've committed a serious crime your worries about MRAM are pretty silly.

It's pretty darned slow for them to fully embrace and produce such a technology to the consumer. If this is the rate of new technology for it to become available then it's quite possibly a state of stale in technology for years.

magneto resistive.. question: would magneto resistive be able to resist a electromagnetic pulse attack from say a north korean nuke weapon over the US?

they usually destroy all electronic circuits as I have learned.

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