NRAM forecasted to consolidate DRAM with Flash memory to disrupt enterprise storage starting in 2018

Nano-Ram, the first non-volatile memory chip to exploit carbon-nanotube technology, appears poised for commercialization in 2018. BCC Research expects this technology to be more disruptive to enterprise storage, enterprise servers and consumer electronics than flash memory, enabling a wave of innovation in those products.

It was the recent licensing agreement to manufacture NRAM commercially by the technology giant Fujitsu which first shifted BCC Research’s market expectations of the decade old technology.

Masato Matsumiya, Vice-President of Fujitsu Semiconductor, commented, “The combination of Nantero’s technology with our design and production capabilities promises to meet the longstanding needs of our customers for non-volatile memory that is higher density, faster, more energy efficient and with a higher rewrite cycle.”

NRAM to Replace Flash and DRAM Technologies?

BCC Research Editorial Director Kevin Fitzgerald cites the ability of NRAM to consolidate DRAM with flash memory as a key factor that should drive huge demand for the technology. “It is rare to see a technology catch fire after so long in development, but NRAM appears poised to do just that,” he said. “In fact, your next smartphone could be a carbon-based lifeform.”

BCC Research anticipates the global NRAM market to achieve a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 62.5% from 2018 to 2023, with the embedded systems market anticipated to reach $4.7 million in 2018 and $217.6 million in 2023, growing at a CAGR of 115.3%.

“While we were writing this report, Nantero received an additional $21 million in venture funding, solidifying our hunch that this technology is about to break into the open,” Fitzgerald said.

The applications BCC Research expects NRAM to quickly impact include the consumer electronics sector, mobile computing, Internet of Things, enterprise storage, defense, aeronautics and automotive.

Nantero’s NRAM is as fast as and denser than DRAM, nonvolatile like flash, has essentially zero power consumption in standby mode and 160x lower write energy per bit than flash, and is highly resistant to environmental forces (heat even up to 300 degrees C, cold, magnetism, radiation, vibration). NRAM is compatible with existing CMOS fabs without needing any new tools or processes, and it is scalable even to below 5nm. Given that it requires a small number of process steps and only one mask layer, NRAM can be fabricated at low cost, and is compatible with both 3D multilayer architectures and MLC operation. This makes NRAM the ideal solution for the next generation of memory technology for both standalone and embedded applications.

They are aiming to develop a product using NRAM non-volatile RAM that achieves several 1000 times faster rewrites and many thousands of times more rewrite cycles than embedded flash memory, making it potentially capable of replacing DRAM with non-volatile memory.

They are working with us on productization for multiple markets. NRAM technology, with its combination of nonvolatility, high speed and high density, is uniquely positioned to allow for the ;continued evolution of memory beyond the projected limits and capabilities of classical technologies.

The computer memory market is about $85 billion per year
Embedded memory is about $10 billion per year
DRAM is $45 billion per year
Flash is about $30 billion per year

Nantero is looking to eventually get to half the price of DRAM
The memory is already about the same speed as DRAM and 1000 times faster than flash
They will use multi-level cells for higher density
Eventually after dominating the computer memory they will also be able to develop carbon nanotube transistors for computer logic.

Carbon nanotube memory will also be able to get down to 5 nanometer width sizes.
They will be able to extend computer performance improvement by 20 years.

The memory is at 1 volt and lasts for 100 billion cycles.

The nonvolatile nature of the memory (no energy needed to keep memory) and months of standby time will mean this memory will be perfect for enabling the internet of things and the vision of trillions of sensors

Previously in 2015, Nextbigfuture had technical details.

In 2015, Nextbigfuture interviewed Nantero CEO Greg Schmergel

* Nantero NRAM is DDR4 compatible
* two top foundries are working with them
* they have a staff of 55 people
* they want to be the ARM of computer memory (ARM successfully licensed chip designs)
* multi-gigabyte designs should be complete in mid-2016 and released as products in mid-2017
* there is 10 thousand times resistance between on andoff states. This will allow for multiple resistant state memory for higher density and lower costs
* there is the potential for carbon nanotube logic in the future

How the carbon nanotubes are used and manipulated ?

* raw carbon nanotubes are obtained from suppliers
* the carbon nanotubes are placed into a pure water solution (no chlorination)
* they are purified in water (iron and other contaminants is removed, have to get to parts per billion purity.
* package in industry bottles
* they are deposited onto chips using spin coating to get a 40 nanometer layer
* hundreds of carbon nanotube connect each pair of electrodes.

Nantero’s NRAM: The Future of Memory

The availability of a new generation of memory that is 100s of times faster than NAND, can deliver terabits of storage capacity, and consumes very little power, has the potential to change the future of electronics. Nantero’s NRAM has all of these breakthrough characteristics. Targeting both the embedded and standalone memory markets, Nantero is already licensing its NRAM IP to major chip manufacturers, foundries and electronics companies around the world.

Targeting a wide range of markets such as consumer electronics, mobile computing, wearables, Internet of Things, enterprise storage, government/military, space, and automotive, Nantero’s NRAM delivers major advantages over other memory technologies. These include:

* CMOS Compatible: Works in standard CMOS fabs with no new equipment needed
* Limitless Scalability: Designed to scale below 5nm in the future
* High-Endurance: Proven to operate for orders of magnitude more cycles than flash
* Faster Read and Write: Same as DRAM, 100s of times faster than NAND
* High Reliability: will retain memory for over 1,000 years at 85 degrees Celsius or more than 10 years at 300 degrees Celsius
* Low Power: Essentially zero in standby mode, 160x lower write energy per bit than NAND
* Low Cost: Simple structure, can be 3D multi-layer and multi-level cell (MLC)

Competing future memory

* better versions of flash and DRAM
* memristor memory (HP and others) [Delayed]
* high density MRAM

SOURCES- Natero, Fujitsu, Yahoo, BCC Research