LONDON – The Shanghai Institute of Microsystem and Information Technology (SIMIT) at the Chinese Academy of Sciences – working with foundry chipmaker SMIC and Microchip Technology – has announced it has developed phase-change random access memory (PCRAM) that is based on Chinese intellectual property, according to a Xinhua report.
The 8-Mbit memory, scheduled for mass production later this year, is intended for use as a replacement for NOR flash in applications such as mobile storage and RFID, according to Chinese language reports in translation. It is relatively modest in capacity, compared with available flash memory but for China the development is intended to break the foreign control of memory chip production and has been accompanied by the filing of about 200 patents, the reports said.
The PCRAM was manufactured jointly by Shanghai Institute of Microsystem and Information Technology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. and Microchip Technology Inc., according to Xinhua, the official press agency of the government of the People's Republic of China. No details were provided of the geometry of the manufacturing process or plans to scale the manufacturing or produce devices with increased capacity.
While it is expected that SMIC could act as a foundry manufacturer of the relatively modestly sized memory it is not yet clear what the role of Microchip (Chandler, Arizona) is in the development of the memory.
Phase-change memory – like NOR and NAND flash – is nonvolatile, providing power-saving opportunties. Its operation is conventionally based on the change of resistance as a chalcogenide glass changes state from amorphous to crystalline under the heating effect of a current passing through a thin film. Although theoretically superior to DRAM, SRAM and flash memory on a number of counts it has yet to reach mainstream commercial adoption.
Micron and Samsung are in the lead. Samsung has developed a 512-Mbit PCRAM test chip on a 60- to 65-nm manufacturing process which has achieved some deployment in Samsung mobile phone. Micron, through its Numonyx acquisition has a 128-Mbit device on 90-nm process. Numonyx was also working on a 1-Gbit phase-change memory on a 45-nm process.
The Shanhai Institute's PCRAM test chip was made on 200-mm diameter wafers but details of the manufacturing process technology or whether it is based on chalcogenide material were not discussed in Chinese language reports.
A voice demonstration has confirmed that the chip can read, write and erase, according to Xinhua. The patents cover technologies ranging from the distribution of materials, structures and chip design to means of testing. China plans to be able to supply 60 percent of its own memory IC requirements within 10 years.
One more thing - surely the Chinese are gunning for rad-hard chips, after their latest shipment was confiscated. Unfortunately, the Chinese failed to read the JPL report which shows that these PCRAM chips throw off errors like crazy. And BAE has persistently failed its US military qualifications for these rad-hard PCRAM chips since 2006. Now it is offering them to the Russians, hoping to ruin their space program.
This is the funniest article I have read in a while. Mr. Clarke has done it again!
The fact is, Samsung has achieved no deployment in any mobile phone. Samsung just floated a few fake, non-commercial units of the low-end GT-E2550 model, before it realized that the chips have power-consumption issues, immediately revised the bill of materials for the model, and replaced the chips with plain NOR MCPs last summer.
Micron, of course, has no sales of its undeperforming and overpriced 128-Mbit chip and is not working on any 1-Gbit chip.
Shanhai Institute's PCRAM test chip may indeed read, write and erase - up to 1000 times, at the speed of a snail.
Ovonyx, by the way, will file for Chapter 11 by the end of 2012.