SEVILLE, Spain – The 'memristor' two-terminal non-volatile memory technology, in development at Hewlett Packard Co. since 2008, is on track to be in the market and taking share from flash memory within 18 months, according to Stan Williams, senior fellow at HP Labs.
"We have a lot of big plans for it and we're working with Hynix Semiconductor to launch a replacement for flash in the summer of 2013 and also to address the solid-state drive market," Williams told the audience of the International Electronics Forum, being held here.
A spokesperson for HP added that there is no definitive memristor product roadmap as yet, but confirmed that "HP has a goal to see memristor products by the end of 2013."
Williams said that the memristor metrics being achieved, in terms of energy to change a bit, read, write time, retention and endurance, were so compelling that flash replacement was effectively a done deal. "So in 2014/2015 we'll be going after DRAM and after that the SRAM market," Williams said indicating his confidence that the memristor would quickly become a universal memory.
Williams declined to discuss in detail the process technology, memory capacity or memory-effect material that Hewlett Packard and Hynix are working with. "We're running hundreds of wafers through a Hynix full-size fab. We're very happy with it." But Williams did disclose that the first commercial memory would be a multi-layer device.
When challenged over the cost of the technology, which would be the barrier to competing against the high-volume flash memory market, Williams said: "On a price per bit basis we could be an order of magnitude lower cost once you get the NRE [non-recurring expense] out of the way."
The memristor, named after the combination of memory and resistor, was originally a theoretical two-terminal device for which the electrical behavior was derived by Leon Chua in 1971. However, in 2008 researchers from HP published a paper in Nature that tied the hysterical I-V characteristics of two-terminal titanium oxide devices to the memristor prediction of Chua. "What we found is that moving a few atoms a fraction of a nanometer can change the resistance by three orders of magnitude," said Williams. "In fact many nanodevices have inherent memresistive behavior," he said.
HP has amassed some 500 patents around the memristor over the last three years. He also acknowledged that phase-change memory (PCM), Resistive RAM (RRAM) and other two-terminal memory devices are all memristor-type devices. Williams acknowledged that many other companies are working on metal-oxide resistive RAMs. He said that Samsung now has a bigger research team working on the technology than does HP.
Williams touted the cross-point nature of the memristor memory switch or resistive RAM device as a memory capacity advantage over flash memory. "Whatever the best in flash memory is, we'll be able to double that."
Somebody is going to make one of these variants work commercially... the basic physics is sound and reproducible. Whether that will be HP/Hynix on their claimed schedule .. I wouldn't bet on that.
My guess is that we'll see it first in really high-end server hardware, or possibly "big iron," for cache. IBM rather aggressively added eDRAM L3 cache to the Power7s ... which I thought was a bit gutsy since they are sold as Hi_Rel. IBM might be the first to roll out memristor cache.
What is interesting is that for PCM and now for Memistors both IBM and now HP/Hynix have abandoned the dreaded product road map and replaced it with specific NV memory targets. IBM has 2016 for PCM in its servers and now we have HP/Hynix claiming they will have devices that will challenge Flash in 2013.
This allows the question, what will need to happen as the intermediate steps in order to achieve those particular target dates. In house, chip design, mask sets, development and proving of the fabrication process, full characterization and full reliability testing. Plus all the other steps that allow cost competitive memory product to be put on the market
What will it take to be competitive with Flash? Will there be a continuity of chip bit capacities for HP/Hynix or will they go for the big bang-that now needs to be 1G-bit plus. My view with respect to the 2013 target for HP/Hynix Memistor, is unless they are well advanced with respect to most of the in-house steps mentioned above the target is unlikely to be met and the motive behind making such an announcement now must be questioned.
Unless, in the very near future (early 2012) Samsung, Micron or Hynix announce a performance and price competitive scaled 1G-bit PCM product, I cannot find any way to be optimistic that even the long-range claim of 2016 by IBM for their PCM application will actually be met by a PCM based device.
This is getting more hilarious than the PCM/PRAM scam! So Meg Whitman's company and Hynix, two companies that can't get their own houses in order, are going to have a chip in 18 months? If this is a ploy for Mr. Williams to somehow keep his job a few more months, surely it won't work.
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