Intel, ST claim phase change memory prototypes
Intel Corp and STMicroelectronics today said they have jointly delivered prototype samples of a memory device that uses phase change memory (PCM), claiming it to be the first functional silicon with PMC to be shipped to customers for evaluation.
Codenamed “Alverstone,” the 128-Mb, 90-nm device uses PCM to provide “very fast read and write speeds at lower power than conventional flash, and allows for bit alterability normally seen in RAM,” Intel and ST said in a joint statement, withholding further details.
Citing data from Web-Feet Research Inc, the companies estimated the 2007 combined memory market for DRAM, flash, and other memory products such as EEPROM was $61 billion. Memory technology cost declines have traditionally been driven at the rate of Moore’s Law, the companies noted, where density doubles every 18 months with each lithography shrink. As RAM and flash technologies run into scaling limitations over the next decade, PCM costs will decline at a faster rate, Intel and ST claimed, further predicting that the advent of multi-level-cell PCM will accelerate the cost per bit crossover of PCM relative to today’s technologies. The duo also projected that by combining the bit-alterability of DRAM, the non-volatility of flash, the fast reads of NOR, and the fast writes of NAND, PCM has the ability to address the entire memory market and be a key driver for future growth over the next decade.
Intel and ST are expected to carry out their plans for PMC through Numonyx, the companies’ pending flash memory joint venture, and said Alverstone will fall under that umbrella when the company is formally established sometime this quarter.
“This is the most significant non-volatile memory advancement in 40 years,” Ed Doller, chief technology officer-designate of Numonyx, said in the statement. “There have been plenty of attempts to find and develop new non-volatile memory technologies, yet of all the concepts, PCM provides the most compelling solution – and Intel and STMicroelectronics are delivering PCM into the hands of customers today. This is an important milestone for the industry and for our companies.”
In related news, the two companies this week at the International Solid States Circuits Conference (ISSCC) presented a research paper describing what they claim is the world’s first demonstrable high-density, multi-level cell large memory device using PCM.
This week’s technologies follow on a now five-year PCM relationship between Intel and ST. In 2003, the companies formed a joint development program to focus on PCM. That program demonstrated 8-Mb memory arrays on 180 nm at the 2004 VLSI conference and first disclosed the Alverstone 90-nm 128-Mb memory device at the 2006 VLSI Symposium.