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Encyclopedia > MRAM
Memory types
Volatile
Non-Volatile

Magnetoresistive Random Access Memory (MRAM) is a non-volatile computer memory (NVRAM) technology, which has been in development since the 1990s. Continued increases in density of existing memory technologies, notably Flash RAM and DRAM kept MRAM in a niche role in the market, but its proponents believe that the advantages are so overwhelming that MRAM will eventually become dominant. To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Volatile memory refers to computer memory that must be powered to maintain its data. ... Dynamic random access memory (DRAM) is a type of random access memory that stores each bit of data in a separate capacitor. ... A high-speed DRAM chip developed by Ramtron International Corporation, Colorado Springs, CO. It allows overlap of a read at the trailing end of a write operation to obtain its speed. ... Static random access memory (SRAM) is a type of semiconductor memory. ... 1T-SRAM is MoSyss implementation of embedded-DRAM on a conventional digital-logic (standard-cell) ASIC process. ... Z-RAM, short for zero capacitor DRAM is a new type of computer memory in development by Innovative Silicon Inc. ... TTRAM, short for Twin Transistor RAM is new type of computer memory in development by Renesas. ... Non-volatile memory, or non-volatile storage, is computer memory that can retain the stored information even when not powered. ... A USB flash drive. ... Read-only memory (ROM) is a class of storage media used in computers and other electronic devices. ... D23128C PROM on the board of ZX Spectrum A programmable read-only memory (PROM) or field programmable read-only memory (FPROM) is a form of digital memory where the setting of each bit is locked by a fuse or antifuse. ... EPROM. The small quartz window admits UV light during erasure. ... An EEPROM (also called an E2PROM)[] or Electronically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory, is a non-volatile storage chip used in computers and other devices to store small amounts of volatile (configuration) data. ... Ferroelectric RAM (FRAM or FeRAM) is a type of non-volatile computer memory, similar to EEPROM but based on electric field orientation and with near-unlimited number (exceeding 1010 for 5V devices and even more for 3. ... Phase-change memory (also known as PCM, PRAM, Ovonic Unified Memory and Chalcogenide RAM [C-RAM]) is a type of non-volatile computer memory. ... Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... RRAM or Resistive Random Access Memory is a new non-volatile memory type begin developed by Sharp, Samsung, Fujitsu, Spansion, Macronix, Winbond and other companies. ... Nano-RAM, is a proprietary computer memory technology from the company Nantero. ... Non-volatile memory, or non-volatile storage, is computer memory that can retain the stored information even when not powered. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Non-Volatile Random Access Memory (NVRAM) is a type of computer memory chip which does not lose its information when power is turned off. ... Flash memory is a form of EEPROM that allows multiple memory locations to be erased or written in one programming operation. ... Dram can mean several things: For the imperial unit of volume see dram (unit), commonly used to describe a measure of Scotch whisky For the imperial unit of weight or mass see avoirdupois and apothecaries system (of mass) For the Armenian monetary unit see dram (currency) DRAM is a type...

Contents

Description

Unlike conventional RAM chip technologies, in MRAM data is not stored as electric charge or current flows, but by magnetic storage elements. The elements are formed from two ferromagnetic plates, each of which can hold a magnetic field, separated by a thin insulating layer. One of the two plates is a permanent magnet set to a particular polarity, the other's field will change to match that of an external field. A memory device is built from a grid of such "cells". Random access memory (usually known by its acronym, RAM) is a type of data store used in computers. ... Electric charge is a fundamental conserved property of some subatomic particles, which determines their electromagnetic interaction. ... Magnetic lines of force of a bar magnet shown by iron filings on paper In physics, magnetism is one of the phenomena by which materials exert an attractive or repulsive force on other materials. ... Ferromagnetism is a phenomenon by which a material can exhibit a spontaneous magnetization, and is one of the strongest forms of magnetism. ...


Reading is accomplished by measuring the electrical resistance of the cell. A particular cell is (typically) selected by powering an associated transistor, which switches current from a supply line through the cell to ground. Due to the magnetic tunnel effect, the electrical resistance of the cell changes due to the orientation of the fields in the two plates. By measuring the resulting current, the resistance inside any particular cell can be determined, and from this the polarity of the writable plate. Typically if the two plates have the same polarity this is considered to mean "0", while if the two plates are of opposite polarity the resistance will be higher and this means "1". Electrical resistance is a measure of the degree to which an electrical component opposes the passage of current. ... Assorted transistors A transistor is a semiconductor device that uses a small amount of voltage or electrical current to control a larger change in voltage or current. ... If two ferromagnets are separated by a thin (about 1 nm) insulator, the resistance of the tunneling current changes with the relative orientation of the two magnetic layers. ... Electrical resistance is a measure of the degree to which an electrical component opposes the passage of current. ...


Data is written to the cells using a variety of means. In the simplest, each cell lies between a pair of write lines arranged at right angles to each other, above and below the cell. When current is passed through them, an induced magnetic field is created at the junction, which the writable plate picks up. This pattern of operation is similar to core memory, a system commonly used in the 1960s. This approach requires a fairly substantial current to generate the field, however, which makes it less interesting for low-power uses, one of MRAM's primary disadvantages. Additionally, as the device is scaled down in size, there comes a time when the induced field overlaps adjacent cells over a small area, leading to potential false writes. This problem, the half-select (or write disturb) problem, appears to set a fairly large size for this type of cell. One experimental solution to this problem was to use circular domains written and read using the giant magnetoresistive effect, but it appears this line of research is no longer active. Electromagnetic induction is the production of an electrical potential difference (or voltage) across a conductor situated in a changing magnetic flux. ... A 16×16 cm area core memory plane of 128×128 bits, i. ... Founding results of Fert The Giant Magnetoresistance Effect (GMR) is a quantum mechanical effect observed in thin film structures composed of alternating ferromagnetic and nonmagnetic metal layers. ...


Another approach, the toggle mode, uses a multi-step write with a modified multi-layer cell. The cell is modified to contain an "artificial antiferromagnet" where the magnetic orientation alternates back and forth across the surface, with both the pinned and free layers consisting of multi-layer stacks isolated by a thin "coupling layer". The resulting layers have only two stable states, which can be toggled from one to the other by timing the write current in the two lines so one is slightly delayed, thereby "rotating" the field. Any voltage less than the full write level actually increases its resistance to flipping. That means that other cells located along one of the write lines will not suffer from the half-select problem, allowing for smaller cell sizes.


A newer technique, spin-torque-transfer (STT) or Spin Transfer Switching, uses spin-aligned ("polarized") electrons to directly torque the domains. Specifically, if the electrons flowing into a layer have to change their spin, this will develop a torque that will be transferred to the nearby layer. This lowers the amount of current needed to write the cells, making it about the same as the read process[1]. There are concerns that the "classic" type of MRAM cell will have difficulty at high densities due to the amount of current needed during writes, a problem STT avoids. For this reason, the STT proponents expect the technique to be used for devices of 65 nm and smaller. The downside is that, at present, STT needs to switch more current through the control transistor than conventional MRAM, requiring a larger transistor, and the need to maintain the spin coherence. Overall, however, the STT requires much less write current than conventional or toggle MRAM. The introduction to this article provides insufficient context for those unfamiliar with the subject matter. ... e- redirects here. ...


Comparison with other systems

Density

The main determinant of a memory system's cost is the density of the components used to make it up. Smaller components, and less of them, means that more "cells" can be packed onto a single chip, which in turn means more can be produced at once from a single silicon wafer. This improves yield, which is directly related to cost.


DRAM uses small capacitors as a memory element, wires to carry current to and from it, and a transistor to control it – referred to as a "1T1C" cell. Capacitors basically consist of two small metal plates separated by a thin insulator, a single element that can be built as small as the current fabrication technology allows. This makes DRAM the highest density RAM currently available, and thus the least expensive, which is why it is used for the majority of RAM found in a computer. Capacitors: SMD ceramic at top left; SMD tantalum at bottom left; through-hole tantalum at top right; through-hole electrolytic at bottom right. ...


MRAM is physically similar to DRAM in makeup, although often does not require a transistor for the write operation. However, as mentioned above, the most basic MRAM cell suffers from the half-select problem, which limits cell sizes to around 180 nm or more. Toggle-mode MRAM offers a much smaller size before this becomes a problem, apparently around 90 nm[2]., the same size as most current DRAM products. To be worth putting into wide production, however, it is generally believed that MRAM will have to move to the 65 nm size of the most advanced memory devices, which will require the use of STT.


Power consumption

Since the capacitors used in DRAM lose their charge over time, memory assemblies using them must periodically refresh all the cells in their chips approximately 1000 times a second, reading each one and re-writing its contents. This demands a constant power supply, which is why DRAM loses its memory when power is turned off on the computer. As DRAM cells decrease in size, the refresh cycles become shorter, and the power draw more continuous.


In contrast, MRAM requires no refresh at any time. Not only does this mean it retains its memory with the power turned off, but also that there is no constant power draw. While the read process theoretically requires more power than the same process in a DRAM, in practice the difference appears to be very close to zero. However, the write process requires more power in order to overcome the existing field stored in the junction, varying from three to eight times the power required during reading[3][4]. Although the exact amount of power savings depends on the nature of the work – more frequent writing will require more power – in general MRAM proponents expect much lower power consumption (up to 99% less) compared to DRAM. STT-based MRAMs eliminate the difference between reading and writing, further reducing power requirements.


It is also worth comparing MRAM with another common memory system, Flash RAM. Like MRAM, Flash does not lose its memory when power is removed, which makes it very common as a "hard disk replacement" in small devices such as the iPod or digital cameras. When used for reading, Flash and MRAM are very similar in power requirements. However, Flash is re-written using a large pulse of voltage (about 10 V) that is stored up over time in a charge pump, which is both power-hungry and time consuming. Additionally the current pulse physically degrades the Flash cells, which means Flash can only be written to some fixed number of times before it must be replaced. Flash memory is a form of EEPROM that allows multiple memory locations to be erased or written in one programming operation. ... The current iPod line. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with voltage multiplier. ...


In contrast, MRAM requires only slightly more power to write than read, and no change in the voltage, eliminating the need for a charge pump. This leads to much faster operation, lower power consumption, and no effective "lifetime". These advantages are so overwhelming that it is expected Flash will be the first memory type to eventually be replaced by MRAM.


Speed

DRAM speed is limited by the speed at which the current stored in the cells can be drained (for reading) or stored (for writing). MRAM operation is based on measuring voltages rather than currents, so there is less "settling time" needed. IBM researchers have demonstrated MRAM devices with access times on the order of 2 ns, somewhat better than even the most advanced DRAMs built on much newer processes. The differences compared to Flash are far more significant, with similar performance for reads, but as much as thousands of times faster for writes.


The only current memory technology that easily competes with MRAM in terms of speed is Static RAM, or SRAM. SRAM consists of a series of transistors arranged in a flip-flop, which will hold one of two states as long as power is applied. Since the transistors have a very low power requirement, their switching time is very low. However, since an SRAM cell consists of several transistors, typically four or six, its density is much lower than DRAM. This makes it expensive, which is why it is used only for small amounts of high-speed memory, notably the CPU cache in most modern CPU designs. Static Random Access Memory (SRAM) is a type of semiconductor memory. ... This article is about the electronic component. ... Diagram of a CPU memory cache A CPU cache is a cache used by the central processing unit of a computer to reduce the average time to access memory. ... CPU can stand for: in computing: Central processing unit in journalism: Commonwealth Press Union in law enforcement: Crime prevention unit in software: Critical patch update, a type of software patch distributed by Oracle Corporation in Macleans College is often known as Ash Lim. ...


Although MRAM is not quite as fast as SRAM, it is close enough to be interesting even in this role. Given its much higher density, a CPU designer may be inclined to use MRAM to offer a much larger but somewhat slower cache, rather than a smaller but faster one. It remains to be seen how this trade off will play out in the future.


Overall

MRAM has similar speeds to SRAM, similar density but much lower power consumption than DRAM, and is much faster and suffers no degradation over time in comparison to Flash memory. It is this combination of features that some suggest make it the "universal memory", able to replace SRAM, DRAM and EEPROM and Flash. This also explains the huge amount of research being carried out into developing it. An EEPROM (also called an E2PROM)[] or Electronically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory, is a non-volatile storage chip used in computers and other devices to store small amounts of volatile (configuration) data. ...


However, market forces have to date kept MRAM out of widespread use. Intense pressure in the Flash market has driven vendors to aggressively introduce newer versions on the very latest fabs, producing 1 Gbit parts with 65 nm processes (and even 16 Gbit parts produced by Samsung on a 50 nm process[1]). DRAM offers considerably less return on investment due to overproduction, so most DDR2 DRAM is produced on a one-generation-old 90 nm process. Samsung Group is one of the largest South Korean business groupings. ... In finance, the return on investment (ROI) or just return is a calculation used to determine whether a proposed investment is wise, and how well it will repay the investor. ...


In comparison, MRAM is still largely "in development", and being produced on older non-critical fabs. The only commercial product widely available at this point is Freescale Semiconductor's 4 Mbit part, produced on a several-generations-old 180 nm process. As demand for Flash continues to outstrip supply, it appears it will be some time before a company can afford to "give up" one of their latest fabs for MRAM production. Even then, MRAM designs currently do not come close to Flash in terms of cell size, even using the same fab. Freescale Semiconductor, Inc. ...


History

  • 1955 - Magnetic core memory had the same reading writing principle as MRAM
  • 1989 - IBM scientists made a string of key discoveries about the "giant magnetoresistive effect" in thin-film structures.
  • 2000 - IBM and Infineon established a joint MRAM development program.
  • 2002 - NVE Announces Technology Exchange with Cypress Semiconductor.
  • 2003 - A 128 kbit MRAM chip was introduced, manufactured with 0.18 micrometre technology.

2004 A 16×16 cm area core memory plane of 128×128 bits, i. ... Founding results of Fert The Giant Magnetoresistance Effect (GMR) is a quantum mechanical effect observed in thin film structures composed of alternating ferromagnetic and nonmagnetic metal layers. ...

  • June - Infineon unveiled a 16-Mbit prototype based on 0.18 micrometre technology
  • September - MRAM becomes a standard product in Freescale, which has began sampling MRAM.
  • October - Taiwan developers of MRAM to tape out 1 Mbit parts at TSMC.
  • October - Micron drops MRAM, mulls other memories.
  • December - TSMC, NEC, Toshiba describe novel MRAM cells.
  • December - Renesas Technology Develops High-Speed, High-Reliability MRAM Technology.

2005

  • January - Cypress samples MRAM, uses NVE IP.
  • March - Cypress to Sell MRAM Subsidiary.
  • June - Honeywell posts data sheet for 1-Mbit rad-hard MRAM using 0.15 micrometre technology.
  • August - MRAM record: memory cell runs at 2 GHz.
  • November - Renesas Technology and Grandis to Collaborate on Development of 65 nm MRAM Employing Spin Torque Transfer.
  • December - Sony announced the first lab-produced spin-torque-transfer MRAM, which utilizes a spin-polarized current through the tunneling magnetoresistance layer to write data. This method consumes less power and is more scalable than conventional MRAM. With further advances in materials, this process should allow for densities higher than those possible in DRAM.
  • December - Freescale Semiconductor Inc. revealed MRAM that uses magnesium oxide, rather than an aluminum oxide, allowing for a thinner insulating tunnel barrier and improved bit resist during the write cycle, thereby reducing the required write current.

Spin torque transfer writing technology is a technology in which data is written by aligning the spin direction of the electrons flowing through a TMR (tunneling magneto-resistance) element. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... American corporation Freescale Semiconductor, Inc. ...

Current status

2006

  • February - Toshiba and NEC announced a 16 Mbit MRAM chip with a new "power-forking" design. It achieves a transfer rate of 200 MB/s, with a 34 ns cycle time - the best performance of any MRAM chip. It also boasts the smallest physical size in its class -- 78.5 square millimeters -- and a low power requirement of 1.8 volts.[2]
  • July - On July 10, Austin Texas - Freescale Semiconductor begins marketing a 4-Mbit MRAM chip, which sells for approximately $25.00 per chip.[3]

July 10 is the 191st day (192nd in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian Calendar, with 174 days remaining. ...

Applications

Proposed uses for MRAM include devices such as:

Look up aerospace in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... A MacBook A laptop computer, or simply laptop (also notebook computer or notebook), is a small mobile computer, which usually weighs 2. ... Smart card used for health insurance in France. ... Cellular redirects here. ... Static random access memory (SRAM) is a type of semiconductor memory. ... An example of a Flight Data Recorder The flight data recorder (FDR) is a flight recorder used to record specific aircraft performance parameters. ...

See also

An EEPROM (also called an E2PROM)[] or Electronically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory, is a non-volatile storage chip used in computers and other devices to store small amounts of volatile (configuration) data. ... Ferroelectric RAM (FRAM or FeRAM) is a type of non-volatile computer memory, similar to EEPROM but based on electric field orientation and with near-unlimited number (exceeding 1010 for 5V devices and even more for 3. ... Phase-change memory (also known as PCM, PRAM, Ovonic Unified Memory and Chalcogenide RAM [C-RAM]) is a type of non-volatile computer memory. ... Nano-RAM, is a proprietary computer memory technology from the company Nantero. ... Magnetoresistance is the property of some materials to change the value of their electrical resistance when an external magnetic field is applied to them. ... Ferromagnetism is the phenomenon by which materials, such as iron, in an external magnetic field become magnetized and remain magnetized for a period after the material is no longer in the field. ... In physics, the tunnel magnetoresistance effect, commonly abbreviated as TMR, occurs when two ferromagnets are separated by a thin (about 1 nm) insulator. ... A spin valve is a device consisting of two or more conducting magnetic materials, that alternates its electrical resistance (from low to high or high to low) depending on the alignment of the magnetic layers. ...

References

  • E-mail with Grandis, one of the pioneers of the STT technique
  1. ^ Samsung (2007-01-03). SAMSUNG Samples First 50-nanometer 16Gb NAND Flash for Solid State Disk and Other High-density Applications. Press release. Retrieved on 2007-01-03.
  2. ^ NEC Corporation (2006-02-07). Toshiba and NEC Develop World's Fastest, Highest Density MRAM. Press release. Retrieved on 2006-07-10.
  3. ^ Freescale Semiconductor (2006-07-10). Freescale Leads Industry in Commercializing MRAM Technology. Press release. Retrieved on 2006-07-10.

– 2007 (MMVII) is the current year, a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar and the Anno Domini (common) era. ... January 3 is the 3rd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... A news release, press release or press statement is a written or recorded communication directed at members of the news media for the purpose of announcing something claimed as having news value. ... – 2007 (MMVII) is the current year, a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar and the Anno Domini (common) era. ... January 3 is the 3rd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... For the Manfred Mann album, see 2006 (album). ... February 7 is the 38th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar. ... A news release, press release or press statement is a written or recorded communication directed at members of the news media for the purpose of announcing something claimed as having news value. ... For the Manfred Mann album, see 2006 (album). ... July 10 is the 191st day (192nd in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian Calendar, with 174 days remaining. ... For the Manfred Mann album, see 2006 (album). ... July 10 is the 191st day (192nd in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian Calendar, with 174 days remaining. ... A news release, press release or press statement is a written or recorded communication directed at members of the news media for the purpose of announcing something claimed as having news value. ... For the Manfred Mann album, see 2006 (album). ... July 10 is the 191st day (192nd in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian Calendar, with 174 days remaining. ...

External links

  • MRAM news and resources
  • IBM research - MRAM By Richard Butner
  • Science magazine article from April, 2005
  • Science magazine article from September, 2005
  • Wired News article from February, 2006
  • NEC Press Release from February, 2006
  • BBC news article from July, 2006
  • Freescale MRAM - an in-depth examination from August 2006
  • MRAM News and Information Blog September 2006 (German)
  • MRAM – The Birth of the Super Memory - An article and an interview with Freescale about their MRAM technology

  Results from FactBites:
 
NVE Notified of Magnetothermal MRAM Patent Grant (389 words)
MRAM is a revolutionary integrated-circuit memory fabricated with nanotechnology that uses electron spin to store data.
MRAM has been called the ideal memory because it has the potential to combine the speed of SRAM, the density of DRAM, and the non-volatility of flash memory.
Magnetothermal MRAM uses a combination of tiny magnetic fields and ultra-fast heating, both from electrical current pulses to reduce the energy required to write data and reduce the size of memory cells while maintaining thermal stability.
Technology Review: A Better Memory Chip (584 words)
In fact, MRAM has the potential to transform the landscape of electronics devices, says Doug Burger, professor of computer sciences and electrical engineering at the University of Texas in Austin.
MRAM chips, he says, hold data without a power supply and can be written to and read from an unlimited number of times.
MRAM is able to hold data without power (a property called "nonvolatility"), because once the magnetic orientation of an electron is set, it doesn't need electricity to be maintained.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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