Hprobe’s Vote for MRAM

Hprobe Perpendicular Magnetic Field UnitHprobe: a test equipment manufacturer based in Grenoble France, has cast its vote for MRAM to succeed in the emerging memory battle.  It has created a piece of production test equipment dedicated to MRAM technology.

The company has developed a new perpendicular magnetic generator module that allows Continue reading “Hprobe’s Vote for MRAM”

Podcast: Storage Developer Conference 2018 – Emerging Memories

SDC 2018 LogoAlmost one year ago Tom Coughlin and The Memory Guy presented the findings of our first emerging memories report at the Storage Networking Industry Association’s (SNIA) Storage Developers Conference (SDC).  The podcast of this presentation has just been made available on the SNIA website.

In the podcast, titled “The Long and Winding Road to Persistent Memories,” Tom and I reviewed leading emerging memory technologies as we had surveyed them for our report.

This is a highly visual presentation, so I would recommend following along with the slides, which can also be downloaded from the SNIA SDC website at HERE.  That same page combines the slides and the podcast into a video, so if you’re able to, it might be  a good idea to watch the video.  If you’re driving as your listening to it, though, then please use the podcast instead!

In the time since that podcast was recorded Tom and I have updated the report to a 2019 edition, which can be Continue reading “Podcast: Storage Developer Conference 2018 – Emerging Memories”

Emerging Memory Report Updated

Tom Coughlin and I are proud to announce that we have released an update of our popular emerging memory report.  This report, titled Emerging Memories Ramp Up, covers all leading emerging memory technologies from PCM and 3D XPoint through MRAM and ReRAM to less-known types like carbon nanotubes and polymeric FRAMs.

Anyone who makes or uses memory chips, or who is involved in this ecosystem as an investor or tool supplier needs to read and understand this study to prepare for one of the biggest changes in the history of the chip market.  The report’s wealth of information will allow companies to make strategic plans to gain a competitive edge.

The report’s forecast model has determined that the emerging memory market will grow to $20 billion by 2029 largely by displacing today’s less efficient Continue reading “Emerging Memory Report Updated”

MRAMs to Power Cell Phones

Spin i Reversed Below the EquatorThe Memory Guy today became aware of a significant breakthrough in magnetic memory technologies (MRAM) that could prove to be a big bonus for mobile applications.  These memories could be used to generate power as well as to store data.

Scientists have only recently become aware of an oversight stemming from the fact that nearly all spin magnetics research has been performed in the northern hemisphere.  Just as the water in a drain rotates counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere but clockwise in the southern hemisphere, the Coriolis Effect dictates that magnetic spin has the opposite sense above the equator as below.

This surprise finding was made when researchers from Stüdpfalz University of Blindman’s Bluff, Iowa, brought samples of an STT MRAM they had developed to the Townsville City Metropolitan University in Queensland, Australia, where researchers have been producing similar magnetic memories below the equator.  Until that moment neither team had thought to question the Continue reading “MRAMs to Power Cell Phones”

Memory Sightings at ISSCC

ISSCC LogoThis week the International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) was held in San Francisco.  What was there?  The Memory Guy will tell you!

NAND Flash

There were three NAND flash papers, one each from Toshiba, Samsung, and Western Digital Corp. (WDC).

Toshiba 96-layer 1Tb QLC NANDToshiba described a 96-layer QLC 1.33 terabit chip.  Like the chip that Toshiba presented last year, this one uses CUA, which Toshiba calls “Circuit Under Array” although Micron, who originated the technology, says that CUA stands for “CMOS Under Array.”  Toshiba improved the margins between the cells by extending the gate threshold ranges below zero, a move that forced them to re-think the sense amplifiers.  They also implemented a newer, faster, lower-error way to Continue reading “Memory Sightings at ISSCC”

Emerging Memories Today: Forecasting Emerging Memories

Emerging Memory ParadeReaders who have been following this series will note that The Memory Guy has so far described everything pertaining to emerging memory technologies except for the market outlook.  In this post I will share some key elements of our emerging memory forecast.

Since this is a simple blog post the forecast coverage is brief.  The detailed forecast appears in the report that is the basis of this blog post series: Emerging Memories Poised to Explode.

The first large-scale applications poised to replace today’s standard NOR flash with a new memory technology will be the embedded memories in CMOS logic chips that are processed on advanced process nodes (processes of 28nm and smaller.)  Many CMOS logic chips use NOR flash, especially microcontrollers (MCUs) which are found in a very broad range of applications.  The vast majority of MCUs, though, are uncomplicated and can therefore be economically produced on larger, older process nodes like 90nm and greater.

At tighter processes flashless versions of some MCUs already ship that can Continue reading “Emerging Memories Today: Forecasting Emerging Memories”

Emerging Memories Today: Emerging Memory Companies

Emerging Memory ParadeMost memory industry participants view emerging memories as the eventual path of the business: There’s no doubt that today’s memory technologies will stop scaling, and that new memory technologies will need to replace today’s leading technologies both in the embedded and stand-alone spaces.  This includes DRAM, NAND flash, NOR flash, and SRAM.  Because this outlook is held by nearly everyone in the industry, all major memory manufacturers are investing in alternative memory technologies.  The leading players are researching multiple technologies at the same time.

Meanwhile, the industry outlook has allowed many university research projects and other similar efforts to gain funding to develop new memory types, spawning a large number of small single-technology companies tightly focused on one technology or another: ReRAM, MRAM, FRAM, and others, including such highly-differentiated technologies as carbon nanotubes and printable polymers.

In our Emerging Memory report Tom Coughlin and I did our Continue reading “Emerging Memories Today: Emerging Memory Companies”

Emerging Memories Today: Process Equipment Requirements

Emerging Memory ParadeSomething that distinguishes the Emerging Memory report that Tom Coughlin and I recently published is the depth in which we cover in the field.  This is not measured in pages, but in the topics that we cover.  For example, this blog post, excerpted from the report, covers the changes in tooling that will be necessary to allow a standard CMOS wafer fabrication plant (a “fab”) to produce an emerging memory technology, and the impact that this is likely to have on the market for semiconductor tools.

All of the emerging memory technologies covered in the Memory Guy’s previous post share certain things in common.  One of them is that they are built between metal layers, rather than in the silicon CMOS substrate itself (with the possible exception of the hafnium oxide FRAM.)

This means that the tooling required for any of these technologies will bear a strong resemblance to that used by any of the others.  For the most part these tools will be used for deposition and etch.  The lithography requirements will be satisfied by the tools used to pattern the metal layers.

The process flow in this figure sheds some light on the steps that Continue reading “Emerging Memories Today: Process Equipment Requirements”

Emerging Memories Today: The Technologies: MRAM, ReRAM, PCM/XPoint, FRAM, etc.

Emerging Memory ParadeHere in the US we use an extremely odd expression.  If there are multiple varieties of an item we commonly say: “There are more of them than you can shake a stick at!”  This is a very lengthy way to say: “numerous.”  (I don’t believe that ANYONE understands how that expression became a part of our vernacular!)  Although The Memory Guy isn’t normally seen shaking a stick, I find it an apt way to describe the numerous new memory technologies that are being pioneered today.  There are certainly lots of them!

This post is intended to be very high-level technical description of today’s leading emerging memory technologies.  These are excerpts of the in-depth descriptions that can be found in our recently-released report: Emerging Memories Poised to Explode.

PCM: Also known as PRAM, Phase-Change Memory technology is based upon a material that can be either amorphous or crystalline at normal ambient temperatures.  The crystalline state has a low resistance and the amorphous state has a high resistance.  This is controlled by melting the bit cell by passing a current though it and then allowing it to cool at different rates.

In chemistry and physics, anything with a Continue reading “Emerging Memories Today: The Technologies: MRAM, ReRAM, PCM/XPoint, FRAM, etc.”

Accelerating New Memory Materials Research

Intermolecular Characterization ChartWith all the new emerging memories that are being developed there must be quite a number of test runs to study exactly how well these new technologies and materials can perform.  If a batch of 300mm wafers must be used for a single test then the cost multiplies, particularly if no other test can be run on that wafer.

Another great difficulty is that most memory manufacturers run their wafers on very high-efficiency and high-volume wafer fabs.  It is perilous and wasteful to interrupt a production process to inject a batch of test wafers.  Most fab managers would rather have a tooth pulled than to change their flow to accept an experimental lot.

What can be done to improve this situation?

Well the folks at Intermolecular, Inc. (IMI) explained to the Memory Guy that they have a solution: They have built a small fab that allows single wafers to be processed with varying parameters across a single wafer.  In this way one wafer can be used to run 36 or more different experiments all at the same time.  This is clearly more economical than having to run the experiment on 36 wafers or, even worse, 36 batches of wafers!  Intermolecular says that, while production fabs are optimized for manufacturing, their fab is optimized for materials understanding.

The firm calls itself an Continue reading “Accelerating New Memory Materials Research”