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Micron backs phase-change memory

Posted: 29 Jul 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:phase-change memory? solid-state disk?

Memory chip maker Micron Technologies Inc. has indicated that it intends to back the phase-change memory technology it has acquired along with Numonyx BV in February 2010. However, the technology looks destined for use in solid-state disk drives before inclusion in mobile phones, one place where Numonyx had been aiming the technology.

There was some doubt about Micron's intentions for phase-change memory as it had been researching the technology but scaled back its efforts in 2005 and thereafter in an apparent rejection of the non-volatile memory technology. Numonyx has a significant position in NOR flash memory but has also been sampling phase-change memory chips based on technology originally developed by Ovonyx. So it was not clear whether Micron would support or cut the phase-change memory program.

An article he authored, Micron senior fellow Greg Atwood concluded that phase-change memory is "ready for prime time as a next-generation nonvolatile memory." He said that PCM is suitable as a storage-class memory and predicted it would be used in solid-state disk drives to drive higher performance than NAND flash memory at power consumption figures lower than RAM. Thereafter, and as systems software evolves, PCM will be able to move from an I/O drive based usage model to memory-mapped "main memory" usage.

Atwood's article showed a die shot of the 45-nm 1-Gbit phase-change memory in the article. However, he did not comment on the status of the product and called it a "demonstration vehicle."

Numonyx has been sampling a 128-Mbit phase-change memory implemented in a 90-nm process technology since 2008, but opted to jump over the 65-nm node to create its next part on 45-nm process technology. That shipping of that part has been delayed but it is expected to sample some time in 2010 with volume manufacture available in 2011. Micron's support for the technology as demonstrated in this authored paper at least makes that more likely to happen.

- Peter Clarke
EE Times

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