Correction: MRAM memory chips arrive

Due to a production error, the wrong story appeared under the headline "MRAM memory chips arrive" on page 14 of the September 2006 issue of PC World.

MRAM memory chips arrive

Freescale is the first semiconductor company to begin selling memory chips based on MRAM (Magnetoresistive RAM), a technology that uses magnetic attraction to create resistance that is identified in the chip as a one or a zero.

The new chips could be used by computer makers to enable instantaneous startup, said Andreas Wild, director of technology solutions in Europe, Middle East and Africa for Freescale.

MRAM also could replace some other types of memory, like flash and EEPROM (Electrically Erasable Programmable ROM) that suffer from limited endurance, he said. Those technologies use an insulator within the chip that sustains damage through use and so the chips can only support reprogramming a limited number of times, he said. MRAM, however, doesn't sustain that same type of damage with use so it can support unlimited reprogramming, Wild said.

Still, the initial product falls short of some expectations. It has just 4Mb of storage. While that may suffice for some applications, it wouldn't come close to serving the needs of an iPod or a mobile phone, noted Richard Gordon, an analyst with Gartner.

Gordon says it's unlikely that MRAM can catch up to the gigabytes of storage supported by other memory technologies and required by many consumer electronics. Wild, however, says that Freescale has demonstrated that the memory capacity is scalable and that with each new generation of the chip the capacity will double, allowing MRAM to catch up with other available memory technologies. -Nancy Gohring

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