The new technology is based on the ferroelectric principle, the companies said. Ferroelectric RAM (FeRAM) uses less voltage than the DRAM and SRAM (dynamic and static RAM) technologies currently in widespread use, and can also store information even when power is completely switched off, said Infineon spokesman Marius Dittert.
"These FeRAMs use very little power. Also there's specific techniques so you can make them very small. That's why they are very attractive for mobile applications," he said. He added that the companies expect a commercial application, a 32Mb chip for use in mobile phones, to be available by late 2002. Depending on market conditions, they plan future collaboration on 64Mb and even 128Mb devices.
Infineon and Toshiba will each pay 50 per cent of development costs for the technology, totalling about $US60 million, said Dittert. Infineon will send engineers to a Toshiba facility in Yokohama, Japan, where the work will take place, beginning as early as next month. The two companies have a 15-year history of cooperation on memory technologies.
The announcement comes just days after Infineon and IBM released details of a joint project to develop MRAM (magnetic RAM) technology, which stores information using magnetic rather than electric charges. Like FeRAM, MRAM can store information when switched off, said Dittert. But at the current stage of development, FeRAM is faster, while MRAM can store more data, making the latter technology more suited for laptop computers, he said. MRAM is also further from the market, with commercial launch projected by 2004.