IBM and Infineon Technologies today announced they have developed the most advanced Magnetic Random Access Memory (MRAM) technology to date by integrating magnetic memory components into a high-performance logic base.
Today’s announcement could accelerate the commercialisation of MRAM, a memory technology with the potential to begin replacing some of today’s memory technologies as early as 2005. MRAM could lead to ‘instant on’ computers, allowing users to turn computers on and off as quickly as a light switch.
At the VLSI Symposia taking place this week, IBM and Infineon are presenting their high-speed 128Kbit MRAM core. It is fabricated with a 0.18 micron logic-based process technology, the smallest size reported to date for MRAM technology.
This small base is said to have enabled IBM and Infineon to incorporate the smallest MRAM memory-cell size of 1.4 square microns. By patterning the magnetic structures within this small cell, IBM and Infineon researchers were able to control the memory reading and writing operations.
The non-volatility of MRAM is said to carry significant implications, especially for mobile computing devices.
Memory technologies like Dynamic RAM (DRAM) and Static RAM (SRAM) require constant electrical power to retain stored data. When power is cut off, all data in memory is lost.
A laptop computer works from a copy of its software stored in memory. When turned on, a working version of the software is copied from the hard-disk drive into memory, so the user can access it quickly. Every time the power is turned off and then back on, the process must start over.
Since MRAM retains information when power is turned off, products like laptop computers could start up instantly, without waiting for software to boot up.
Non-volatility can save power as well. Since MRAM will not need constant power to keep the data intact, it could consume much less than current random access memory technologies, extending the battery life of cell phones, handheld devices and other battery powered products.
The high-speed attribute of MRAM means that electronic products can more quickly access data, and MRAM’s high-density means greater storage capacity.
‘MRAM has the potential to become the universal memory technology of the future,’ commented Dr T. C. Chen, VP Science and Technology, IBM Research. ‘This breakthrough demonstrates that MRAM technology is rapidly maturing and could fundamentally alter the entire memory marketplace within the next few years.’
To see MRAM in action, visit <A HREF=’http://domino.research.ibm.com/comm/bios.nsf/pages/mramvlsi.html’>IBM and Infineon MRAM developments</A>