Chip makers look beyond DRAM

Intel and ST Microelectronics are collaborating on developing a new type of memory that could eventually replace both flash and dynamic random access memory.

The two chipmakers will present a jointly authored paper on phase change memory (PCM), also known as PRAM and Ovonic Unified Memory, at the VLSI Technology Symposium in Honolulu, Hawaii, later this month, according to a report in EE Times, an industry journal for electronics engineers.

The two companies are collaborating in some other areas, such as NOR flash memory, and have been researching PCM separately. ST has developed a 128 Mbit PCM prototype using a 90-nanometre (nm) process and is looking into production of multi-gigabit PCM using a 45nm or 32nm process, according to EE Times.

In the paper, the two will outline what they call promising results using a 90nm process, a chalcogenide material storage element and a vertical PNP bipolar junction transistor as a selection device, according to the report. The companies obtained small cell area, good electrical results and high reliability, according to the companies' paper.

PCM is a type of nonvolatile memory, meaning it retains data even when power is removed, unlike DRAM. It relies on the behavior of chalcogenide glass, which can be structurally altered by the heat generated by a controlled input of electricity.

This heat can leave the chalcogenide in either a crystalline or amorphous state, each of which has a distinct electrical resistance. The two states can thus represent binary digits, with the amorphous, high-resistance state representing 1 and the crystalline state 0.

Chalcogenide is also used in rewritable optical media, where its optical, rather than electrical properties, are manipulated.

Stanford Ovshinsky first began researching the properties of chalcogenide glass at Energy Conversion Devices in the 1960s, and the research of Intel, ST and others is still carried out under license from ECD subsidiary Ovonyx.

So far commercialisation has been held back by issues with material quality and power consumption. Companies are now showing more interest in PCM because it could be more suitable for shrinking chip lithography techniques than flash and DRAM memory.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Matthew Broersma
Show Comments


James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >




Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?