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Non-volatile RAM seen as replacement for DRAM, flash

Posted: 09 Jun 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Nantero? DRAM? flash? non-volatile random access memory? Nano-RAM?

Nantero has begun to make its presence felt when it announced a round of financing amounting to $31.5 million that will be used to expedite the development of its non-volatile random access memory (NRAM), sometimes known as Nano-RAM, geared for both enterprise and consumer applications. The startup believes its proprietary NRAM is ready to take its place as a storage class memory and replacement for flash and DRAM.

NRAM is based on carbon nanotubes, cylinders made out of carbon atoms, said Nantero CEO Greg Schmergel. Stronger than steel, these nanotubes have a diameter of 1nm to 2nm, and are better conductors of electricity than other known materials used in chips.

Although Nantero was founded in 2001, it is still very much in a startup phase. EE Times named Nantero one of 10 top startups to watch in 2013. Schmergel said progress working with systems and device companies prompted Nantero to come out of stealth mode. He said NRAM is ready for commercialisation and high-volume production, and that the company is sampling 4Mb high-yield memory chips, with the NRAM process installed in seven production CMOS fabs.

Nantero's proprietary NRAM

Nantero's proprietary NRAM is based on carbon nanotubes

NRAM technology offers a number of advantages, said Schmergel, including read and write that is the same as DRAM but one-hundred times faster than NAND flash used in mobile devices and SSDs, as well as better endurance. "The endurance is unlimited because carbon nanotubes never wear out."

Tests have been done to demonstrate that NRAM remains stable in extreme temperatures, and was even tested by Lockheed Martin and NASA on the space shuttle Atlantis by being bombarded with radiation.

Back on Earth, NRAM's commercial appeal is that is also lower power consumption as compared to DRAM and flash, and the small size of carbon nanotubes means more data in a smaller footprint. This makes it appealing for laptops and mobile devices, said Schmergel, as well as suitable for wearables or Internet of Things devices. "There are applications we can't predict."

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