IBM, Macronix & Qimonda Show New Memory Chip Technology
Scientists from IBM, Macronix and Qimonda announced joint research results that give a major boost to a new type of computer memory with the potential to be the successor to flash memory chips, which are widely used in computers and consumer electronics like digital cameras and portable music players.
The advancement heralds future success for "phase-change" memory, which appears to be much faster and can be scaled to dimensions smaller than flash – enabling future generations of high-density "non-volatile" memory devices as well as more powerful electronics. Non-volatile memories do not require electrical power to retain their information. By combining non-volatility with good performance and reliability, this phase-change technology may also enable a path toward a universal memory for mobile applications.
Working together at IBM Research labs on both U.S. coasts, the scientists designed, built and demonstrated a prototype phase-change memory device that switched more than 500 times faster than flash while using less than one-half the power to write data into a cell. The device's cross-section is a minuscule 3 by 20 nanometers in size, far smaller than flash can be built today and equivalent to the industry's chip-making capabilities targeted for 2015. This new result shows that unlike flash, phase-change memory technology can improve as it gets smaller with Moore's Law advancements.
The new material is a complex semiconductor alloy created in an exhaustive search conducted at IBM's Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif. It was designed with the help of mathematical simulations specifically for use in phase-change memory cells.
The technical details of this research will be presented this week at the IEEE's 2006 International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) in San Francisco.
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