TEMPE, Arizona -- Motorola Inc. has shipped samples of 4-Mbit magnetic RAM non-voltaile memory components to a few selected companies, according to company executives.
The shipments were expected, as Motorola has been leading the field of MRAM development time and forecast sampling before the end of 2003.
The move represents the commercial debut of an innovative form of memory that it is claimed offers something close to the speed of SRAM, with a density approaching that of single-transistor DRAM and the ability to store information when power is removed, like flash memory or EEPROM.
Memories based on MRAM, ferroelectric and phase-change materials have been seen to be in a race to develop a 'universal memory' that could replace SRAM, DRAM and flash in many applications.
One area of debate could be the power consumption to set a bit within the different technologies, although given the ability to switch memories off and on at the systems level even while a system is in use, overall power consumption could be contrived to be taken much lower than for active memories.
Saied Tehrani, MRAM technology director at Motorola's Semiconductor Products Sector, said the delivery of samples showed the successful integration of the magnetics process within the company's 0.18-micron five-layer metal CMOS manufacturing process technology.
"It's been designed to be pin-compatible with an SRAM down to an including the 44-pin package. It's organized as a 256-kbit by 16 device and has a read, write access time of 25-nanoseconds," he told Silicon Strategies.
"There are clearly some SRAMs that are faster, but the MRAM is as good as the majority, and is non-volatile. Also we think 10-ns might be possible, perhaps by redesigning and trading speed for density," he added.
Tehrani added that Motorola now expected to sample the memory more widely at the beginning of 2004, and would probably introduce it as a standard product by the end of 2004. Meanwhile the company expected to begin offering embedded MRAM for design within system-on-chip designs, again on 0.18-micron process technology, from the middle of 2004, with products expected to roll in 2005.
Tehrani said that in parallel with this roll out of the MRAM technology the company expected to jump the technology to the 90-nm manufacturing process node. "We're already running some test circuits on 90-nm at Chandler, Arizona," Tehrani said
"The fact that Motorola has demonstrated a 4-Mbit MRAM chip based on a 0.18-micron technology is great news for the industry," said Bob Merritt, vice president of emerging technologies with Semico Research Corp., in a statement. "This is a significant advancement since Motorola's June 2002 demonstration of a 1-Mbit MRAM using 0.60-micron technology. That's like stepping over four or five process generations in little more than a year."
"We're now working with lead customers on performance refinements for future market introduction and broader sampling next year," said Claudine Simson, chief technology officer, Motorola's Semiconductor Products Sector.
Motorola has had a late paper accepted at the International Electron Devices Meeting coming up in December 2003, where researchers are due to discuss the cell structure and some aspects of the magnetics and 'toggle' programming. At the International Solid State Circuits Conference in February 2004, the company is also expected to give an MRAM paper.