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August 16, 2013

Resistive RAM for Portable Devices

By Bob Emmerson, TMC European Editor

Resistive random-access memory (RRAM or ReRAM) is a non-volatile memory type that is under development by a number of different companies. It’s a possible replacement for DRAM. ReRAM stores data using ions (charged atoms) as changes in electrical resistance, and the key benefit is lower energy consumption and increased performance.

Earlier this month, Crossbar announced a technology that can store a terabyte of data on a single chip that is smaller than a postage stamp. It can access that data 20 times faster than the best breed of flash memory. These features could prove disruptive to the $60-billion dollar Flash market that is at the heart of the $1.1 trillion electronics market. Flash is used in everything from iPhones and tablets to digital cameras.

A team at the University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering, has developed a device that is based on the principles of resistive memory, which can be used to create memory cells that are smaller, operate at a higher speed and offer more storage capacity than flash memory cells. They indicate that in the future, terabytes, not gigabytes, will be the norm.

Resistive memory usually has a metal-oxide-metal structure in connection with a selector device. The UC Riverside team has demonstrated an alternative approach by forming self-assembled zinc oxide nano-islands on silicon. Using a conductive atomic force microscope, the researchers observed three operation modes from the same device structure, essentially eliminating the need for a separate selector device.

Jianlin Liu, a professor of electrical engineering at UC Riverside, said, “This is a significant step as the electronics industry is considering wide-scale adoption of resistive memory as an alternative for flash memory. It really simplifies the process and lowers the fabrication cost.”

Researchers have also found that resistive memory can be scaled down in the sub 10-nanometer scale (a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter.)

Edited by Rachel Ramsey
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