SANTA CLARA, Calif. Ė Belgian microelectronics research center IMEC has announced a joint development program with Nantero Inc. to make carbon nanotube non-volatile memories with critical dimensions of less than 20-nm.
Although IMEC has an active program researching metal-oxide based resistive RAM, the organization expressed the hope that following successful research carbon nanotube (CNT) memory could be deployed as a replacement for DRAM.
Nantero (Woburn, Mass.) has been developing carbon nanotube (CNT) memory, which it calls NRAM, since 2000. The company seemed to make significant progress in the middle part of the decade. On its website the company claims that NRAM will be considerably faster and denser than DRAM, have substantially lower power consumption than DRAM or flash, and be as portable as flash memory.
Individual CNTs are about a nanometer in diameter and can be up to a millimeter long. However, Nantero forms a non-woven matrix of CNTs that are deposited onto a substrate that contains an underlying cell select device and array lines.
In 2006 the company announced it had fabricated and successfully tested a 22-nm memory switch based on mat-like composition of CNTs laid across and etched trench. In this configuration the membrane-like matrix of CNTs displays a bi-modal stability with different resistance states.
IMEC (Leuven, Belgium) has agreed to support Nantero in the manufacture, test and characterization of NRAM arrays with a focus on high-density next-generation memories.
"After review of the progress to date by Nantero and its manufacturing partners, we decided that this CNT-based non-volatile memory has multiple very attractive characteristics for next-generation highly scaled memory," said Luc Van den hove, CEO of IMEC, in a statement. "By taking a leadership position in this area of development, in partnership with Nantero, we will be able to bring substantial benefit to our member companies."
Nantero has already fabricated high-yielding 4-Mbit arrays of NRAM in CMOS production environments, with several important performance advantages: write speed has been shown to be as fast as 3 nanoseconds; endurance is expected to be unlimited and has been tested so far to over 10^12 cycles, with low operating power and superior high temperature retention, according to IMEC.
"Together, Nantero and IMEC can develop and demonstrate this form of memory for future applications below 20-nm such as terabit-scale memory arrays and ultra-fast gigabit-scale nonvolatile cache memories," said Jo de Boeck, CTO of IMEC. "NRAM holds clear promise in aggressively scaled non-volatile memory applications and, if we can demonstrate the suitable endurance and speed specifications, NRAM could even provide an alternative for DRAM that is facing scaling limitations beyond 18-nm."
Greg Schmergel, Nantero's co-founder and CEO, said: "Nantero is already working with world-leading manufacturers, and working with IMEC will enable these efforts to bring carbon nanotube memory to market to move even faster."
Nantero was included in the first three iterations of the Silicon 60 list of emerging technology startups published in 2004 and 2005. The company has raised more than $31 million in three rounds of funding and is backed by Globespan Capital Partners, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Charles River Ventures and Stata Venture Partners.
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