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  • Freescale Unveils Magnetics-Based Memory Chip
Jul 2006
AUSTIN, Texas, July 10, 2006 -- In what some are calling the most significant computer memory development in 10 years, Freescale Semiconductor announced today that it has begun volume production on the industry's first magnetoresistive random access memory (MRAM) device, a chip that has the speed and endurance of RAM memory but can retain information after an external power source is turned off, like a computer's hard drive does.

MRAM uses magnetic polarization, rather than electric charge, to store information. It has the speed of SRAM (static RAM) and a flash memory-like ability to retain information even after power is shut off to the device it is in (a feature called non-volatility), Freescale said.

However, unlike the slower flash technology, currently used in mobile devices such as cell phones and digital cameras, MRAM doesn't degrade over time and its ability to write, erase and overwrite data is virtually unlimited, Freescale said. The company said the release of the technology could speed the development of new classes of electronics products that are dramatically smaller, less expensive and consume less power while working better and faster.

``This is the most significant memory introduction in this decade," Will Strauss, an analyst with the research firm Forward Concepts, told the Associated Press. ``This is radically new technology. People have been dabbling in this for years, but nobody has been able to make it in volume."

Freescale's four megabit (Mbit) MRAM product, called the MR2A16A, has read and write cycle times of 35 nanoseconds, the company said. Development of the device is protected by more than 100 patents and it is manufactured at Freescale's 200 mm fab in Chandler, Ariz.

The MR2A16A can be used for commercial applications such as networking, security, data storage, gaming and printers, and can replace SRAM units that require some battery power, Freescale said. The device also could be used in cache buffers, configuration storage memories and other applications.

The company said the chips could also replace SRAM and DRAM (dynamic RAM) memory chips which are used in PCs. Static and dynamic RAM chips are fast, but lose data when the power is switched off. Using MRAM chips could mean that a PC could boot up immediately because no data was lost when the computer was off.

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That branch of science involved in the study and utilization of the motion, emissions and behaviors of currents of electrical energy flowing through gases, vacuums, semiconductors and conductors, not to be confused with electrics, which deals primarily with the conduction of large currents of electricity through metals.
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