The technology levels of magnetic random access memory (MRAM) and parameter random access memory (PRAM), which have been considered the next-generation memory semiconductors that can replace DRAM, are increasing at a fast pace through the research and development process. In particular, Samsung Electronics and IBM have made an important breakthrough in the spin-transfer torque magnetic random-access memory (STT-MRAM) sector, which has been catching on as a future DRAM, raising the expectations of its commercialization.
According to industry sources on July 10, Samsung Electronics and IBM recently published the research paper about STT-MRAM production technology through the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). IBM said in the paper that STT-MRAM, which has been developed with Samsung Electronics, has succeeded in realizing a 10 nanosecond level speed and a super power saving structure, surpassing the performance of DRAM in theory.
STT-MRAM is a new technology that controls the current flows by changing the direction of electron spin in specific thin membranes. It determines the current flows with subtle differences of resistance and defines data with 0 and 1. STT-MRAM is superior to DRAM in terms of performance, credibility and price competitiveness. In particular, DRAM is difficult to commercialize due to higher technical barriers when it gets thinner than 10-nanometers. However, it is easy to refine STT-MRAM.
SK Hynix and Toshiba have jointly developed STT-MRAM for years and numerous memory chip makers are also researching and developing STT-MRAM. An official from the semiconductor industry said, “STT-MRAM is the most realistic alternative among next-generation memory solutions since it can use 95 percent of existing DRAM production equipment. It will be the most dominant technical stream within 10 years, along with PRAM.”
The technology of PRAM, which can be considered the potential next-generation memory chip, together with MRAM, has grown by leaps and bounds in the past two years. Intel revealed its 3D cross point technology integrating PRAM technology last year and IBM also unveiled the technology which can significantly improve the productivity of PRAM in May this year, entering the technology race.
PRAM is an advanced technology which integrates the advantages of DRAM and NAND flash and can raise the speed and durability by more than 1,000 times, but it has been only researched and developed on theoretical levels. Although Intel and STMicroelectronics made an effort to develop PRAM in the past, they had difficulties to develop the technology which stores one bit per cell and commercialize it.
The reason why non-memory chip makers, like Intel and IBM, are strengthening their memory technology is to aim the data center memory market which is “Blue Ocean.” An official from the industry said, “Server semiconductor business has more than twice the profit rates of PC and mobile businesses and it has an infinite amount of growth potential. Along with data center technologies, including cloud, artificial intelligence and neural networks, the memory market will also have dramatic changes.”