TOKYO -- Toshiba Corp. here and Infineon Technologies AG in Munich today announced a development agreement to commercialize nonvolatile memory chips using ferroelectric technology.
Under the pact, Toshiba and Infineon said they will initially create a 32-megabit ferroelectric random-access memory (FeRAM) for use in cellular phones. The FeRAM will be aimed at replacing NOR-based flash memories and SRAMs now used in cell phones, said the two companies.
The joint development activities will focus on creating a memory cell structure for high-speed access, long-term reliability, and establishing new techniques for resolving metal contamination during chip production, said the two companies. Boosting the number of read/write cycles in a nonvolatile memory device will also be a prime objective of the technology partnership.
Toshiba said the collaboration will pick up from its development of an 8-Mbit FeRAM, and the first engineering samples of a jointly developed device will be available in March 2001. Commercialization of the 32-Mbit FeRAM is expected at the end of 2002. The R&D partnership will then be extended to 64-Mbit memories, and potentially 128-Mbit FeRAMs, depending upon market demand, said Toshiba and Infineon today.
Toshiba and Infineon have collaborated in DRAM technology since the early 1990s. "Our long relationship includes joint development of leading-edge process technology for DRAMs, and we are very confident that this latest collabora-tion in FeRAM will allow us to reinforce our presence in the market," said Yasuo Morimoto, president and CEO of Toshiba's Semiconductor Co. He added that the companies "expect to use well-established 0.25-micron process technology, and that will make FeRAM very competitive against SRAM and NOR flash in cellular phone applications."
For many year, chip companies have explored the use of ferroelectric materials to produce a high-speed RAM than retains data when system power is off. However, the ferroelectric RAMs have only had limited success due to manufacturing costs and yield problems.
Toshiba said it will contribute its lead zirconate titanate (PZT) process technology, a patented "chained" cell structure, the company's 1T1C (1 transistor 1 capacitor) cell structure, and know-how from development of its 8-Mbit FeRAM. Munich-based Infineon said it will contribute expertise in enhancing the number of read and write cycles and in resolving metal contamination of silicon.
Compared to a NOR-based flash memory, FeRAM chips have a faster read access time--similar to SRAMs--and program response times. Unlike standard SRAMs, data is retained in FeRAMs when system power is off.
Toshiba and Infineon said the attributes of the ferroelectric RAM makes the device well-suited for a range of applications, such as video game consoles, cell phones, wireless communication devices and IC cards. The initial 32-Mbit FeRAM developed by Infineon and Toshiba is expected to replace multi-chip package modules in cellular phones that consist of SRAM and a NOR-based flash memory.
"This revolutionary new technology opens new applications which supplement our inten-sive penetration of the communication market, in this case specifically in the wireless market," said Andreas von Zitzewitz, chief operating officer at Infineon. "Nonvolatile storage is a high priority for us, and we are excited about this new activity with such a competent partner."
Toshiba and Infineon said the joint-development program will start in early January 2001 at Toshiba's Advanced Microelectronics Center and Ofuna Office of Semiconductor System Engineering Center in Yokohama. Infineon plans to send up to 20 engineers to the project. The development costs will be shared by the partners, said the two companies.