The functional RRAM has a data storage capacity 20 times larger than flash memory, but consumes 200 times less power, said Ho Chia-hua of National Nano Device Laboratories under the NARC. The invention is expected to enter the phase of mass production within five to 10 years, Ho said.
He touted the new technology as a new road for the memory industry, as the technology to shrink the size of traditional flash memory is anticipated to reach a bottleneck by 2013.
Flash memory started with 90 nm process technology in 2004, which evolved to 32 nm this year and will shrink further to 22 nm in 2011, Ho said, adding that development is expected to stop there.
His research team, however, has successfully shrunk the size of the RRAM to 9 nm, while greatly reducing the power consumption by changing the chemical composition of the tungsten-oxide layer.
Despite using only a tiny amount of power, the new RRAM can store 500 gigabytes of data on a one-square-centimeter chip, Ho said.
The new technology will allow all kinds of data-processing electronic products to be reduced in size, he added.
Ho predicted that once mass production of the new RRAM begins, it will help promote Taiwan’s global memory output from the present less-than 1 percent to 10 percent.
Resistive random-access memory (RRAM) is a new non-volatile memory type being developed by many companies. The technology bears some similarities to CBRAM and phase change memory. Different forms of RRAM have been disclosed, based on different dielectric materials, spanning from perovskites to transition metal oxides to chalcogenides.
The basic idea is that a dielectric, which is normally insulating, can be made to conduct through a filament or conduction path formed after application of a sufficiently high voltage. The conduction path formation can arise from different mechanisms, including defects, metal migration, etc. Once the filament is formed, it may be reset (broken, resulting in high resistance) or set (re-formed, resulting in lower resistance) by an appropriately applied voltage.
RRAM has the potential to become the front runner among other non-volatile memories. Compared to PRAM, RRAM operates at a faster timescale (switching time can be less than 10 ns), while compared to MRAM, it has a simpler, smaller cell structure (less than 8F² MIM stack). Compared to flash memory and racetrack memory, a lower voltage is sufficient and hence it can be used in low power applications.
ITRI has recently shown that RRAM is scalable below 30 nm. The motion of oxygen atoms is a key phenomenon for oxide-based RRAM; one study has indicated that oxygen motion may take place in regions as small as 2 nm.
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Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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