Samsung buys MRAM maker Grandis

Grandis' technology may some day compete with NAND flash and DRAM

Samsung Electronics today said it has acquired Grandis, Inc., a Milpitas, Calif., maker of magnetic random access memory (MRAM) technology known as spin transfer torque (STT-RAM).

Grandis' non-volatile memory technology is a future contender to DRAM and NAND flash memory. The technology requires less power and has higher performance than DRAM and NAND.

However, to date, it has been too expensive to mass produce.

Samsung said Grandis will be merged into its R&D operations "that are focused on developing the next evolution of memory, where new semiconductor materials and structures are reviewed for their long-term commercial value."

Further details of the transaction were not disclosed.

Grandis, which has about 25 employees and was founded in 2002, has yet to ship a product.

Through a development deal with Hynix Semiconductor last year, the company produced its first 54 nanometer (NM) chip, said Alex Driskill-Smith, Grandis' vice president of business development. Grandis foresees its technology scaling down to 20nm and even smaller over the next five years.

Grandis' MRAM technology is superior to conventional chips in that is scales to smaller circuitry sizes. The densest circuitry for conventional MRAM has been 99nm.

According to Driskill-Smith, SST-RAM requires far less power to write data compared to vastly less expensive NAND flash.

"It has a lot better properties than NAND," Driskill-Smith said. "NAND requires more power to switch the bits -- 15 to 20 volts and takes a microsecond or even millisecond to switch them."

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

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