Ron@Maltiel-consulting.com Semiconductor & Patent Expert Consulting

Litigation expert consultant and patent expert witness for process, device, and circuit of  Dynamic

 Ram (DRAM), Flash  (NAND, NOR, EEPROM), and Static Ram (SRAM) Memories,

 and Microprocessor, Logic, and Analog Devices.

PCM and FRAM product introductions:

1. Intel to mass produce 128-Mbit phase-change memory

2. Fujitsu starts volume production of 2Mb FRAM

3. Intel to sample phase change memory in 1H 2007

 

Intel to mass produce 128-Mbit phase-change memory

 

 
BEIJING — Intel Corp. is preparing to sample a 128-Mbit phase-change memory that will roll into volume production in the second half of the year using 90-nanometer technology.

The device, codenamed Alverstone, is Intel's first phase-change memory product and is being billed as a NOR flash compatible replacement. Intel is the second-largest NOR flash vendor behind Spansion Inc.

Intel unveiled the part on Tuesday at its Spring development forum in Beijing. Intel Chief Technology Officer Justin Rattner said the part has six times the write performance of today's NOR flash and is much more "robust," lasting for at least one million write cycles.

Rattner had originally planned to demo a system using phase-change memory but he ran out of time during his keynote presentation.

Phase-change memory is vying with a handful of other next-generation alternatives, such as FeRAM and MRAM, to replace DRAM and Flash once they are tripped up by scaling limits. Many technologists expect flash to reach its limit at the 45-nanometer or 35-nanometer process node.

The non-volatile memory technology is based on the electrically induced phase change of chalcogenide materials, which have been difficult to manufacture reliably in volumes. Phase-change materials have both crystalline and noncrystalline states that can represent "0" or "1," and it's possible to toggle between them by applying a small reset current.

Rattner said Intel has set "modest" goals by targeting the 128-Mbit part as only a NOR replacement. However, he added "it does demonstrate the performance potential of phase change."

Rattner also said Intel will not only use this first-generation part as a product, but also as a way to fine-tune the phase-change memory mass production process. "If it can be manufactured in high volume and at low cost, it will lead to a lot of rethinking of the memory hierarchy," he said. "It is fundamentally cheaper than DRAM and if it performs well as a fast read-write memory with non-volatility, then it makes a pretty compelling DRAM replacement."

Last summer, Intel joined forces with STMicroelectronics NV to develop phase-change memory. The two companies jointly presented research on the topic at the VLSI Technology Symposium. Although Intel is moving ahead with mass production, STMicro doesn't expect to do so until it ramps up the 45-nanometer process node. STMicro currently has a 128-Mbit large area demonstrator implemented on 90-nanometer process technology.

At the International Electron Devices Meeting in December, several companies claimed major breakthroughs in phase-change memory, although most of these efforts are still in the R&D stage. In one effort, the team of IBM, Macronix and Qimonda AG said they had developed a reliable phase-change memory prototype that switches more than 500 times faster than traditional flash memory technologies.

Other companies pursuing the Holy Grail of a unified memory include Hitachi Ltd., Renesas Technology Corp., and Samsung Electronics.

Both Intel and ST are working on phase-change memory under separate licensing agreements with Ovonyx Inc. Ovonic unified memory dates back to 1970, when it was introduced by Energy Conversion Devices Inc.

Fujitsu starts volume production of 2Mb FRAM
Press release, April 18; Esther Lam, DIGITIMES [Thursday 19 April 2007]

Fujitsu announced the availability of its 2Mbit ferroelectric random access memory (FRAM) chips (MB85R2001 and MB85R2002).

Fujitsu noted that the non-volatily feature of FRAM is ideal for car navigation systems, multi-function printers, and measuring instruments to store various parameters, record operating conditions of equipment, as well as store security information.

FRAM allows 10 billion read/write cycles, which corresponds to writing 30 times a second continuously for 10 years. Also, FRAM can store data for more than 10 years without a battery, Fujitsu highlighted.

As compared to electrically erasable programmable read only memory (E2PROM), a non-volatile memory that can be erased electrically, Fujitsu said FRAM can endure a high number of write cycles (1,000 times higher writing speed and over 1,000 times writing cycle), and has low power consumption as well as high-speed data writing advantages.

Compared to conventional battery-backup SRAMs, using these new FRAM products from Fujitsu make it unnecessary to rely on a battery for data retention, while also enabling simplification of production processes and maintenance tasks, and reduction of material waste, thereby alleviating the environmental burden.

In separate note, Fujitsu indicated that it has reached a worldwide FRAM sales of approximately 500 million chips, including discrete memory chips and chips with embedded FRAM memory, ever since it started FRAM volume production in 1999.

Sample price for these two chips are 2,000 yens.

Fujitsu 2Mb FRAM specification overview

 

MB85R2001 MB85R2002

MB85R2001 MB85R2002

Bit configuration

256 Kwords x 8 bits

128 Kwords x 16 bits

Power supply

3.0~3.6V

Operating temperature

-20C ~ +85C

Read access time

100ns

Read cycle time
Write cycle time

150ns

Data retention period

over 10 years

Write cycle endurance

10 billion cycles

Package

TSOP-48

Intel to sample phase change memory in 1H 2007

LONDON — Intel Corp. (Santa Clara, Calif.) is preparing to sample a 90-nm 128-Mbit phase change memory to customers in the first half of 2007. Mass production could begin before the end of 2007 the chip giant said.

The memory is being introduced as a drop-in replacement for NOR flash non-volatile memory although its perfromance characteristics means it could be used it a greater range of applications and come to replace in DRAM in some systems, Intel said.

Brian Harrison, vice president of the flash memory group (FMG) at Intel and Ed Doller, chief technology officer of FMG, revealed the move at a meeting for analysts and press held in California on Tuesday (March 6).

Intel has been a licensee of chalcogenide-based phase change memory technology from Ovonyx Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Energy Conversion Devices Inc. (Rochester Hills, Mich.), since about 2000. Over this period Intel has been actively researching the technology even though Energy Conversion Devices has been touting the technology, without commercial success, for more than 30 years.

Intel and European chip maker STMicroelectronics NV announced they had teamed up their research on chalcogenide-based phase-change memory as a likely successor to flash as a non-volatile memory, in June 2006.

Interest in phase-change and other non-volatile memory technologies has increased markedly in the last five or six years as there are increasing concerns that flash memory may struggle to scale. Qimonda AG, formerly the memory operation of Infineon Tecnologies AG, is researching phase-change memory technology with IBM Corp. and Macronix of Hsinchu, Taiwan.

At the ISSCC in February 2007 Renesas Technology Corp. and Hitachi Ltd. discussed a phase-change non-volatile memory module for integration on microcontrollers used in embedded systems.

Doller told the meeting that Intel's 128-Mbit phase-change memory had demonstrated 100 million read-write cycles of endurance and a capability for much greater than 10 years data retention. "The phase-change memory gets pretty close to Nirvana," Doller said. "It will start to displace some of the RAM in the system."

 

Doller added that the samples that would be going out to customers were designed to be a drop-in NOR flash replacement. "We're going to be using this to allow customers to get familiar with the technology and help us architect the next generation device," said Doller. "That dialog is happening right now."

Doller added that the technology was showing good robustness against temperature: "We don't see any issue meeting industrial [temperature range]..."

When asked when the phase change memory would go into mass production Doller said: "We're hoping we can see production by the end of the year, but that depends on the customers."