NEC, university make CAM-on-MRAM progress

-June 13, 2011

LONDON - NEC Corp and Tohoku University are presenting a couple of papers on the use of magnetic RAM non-volatility with content addressable memories (CAMs) at the Symposia on VLSI Circuits and Technologies. The first is a CAM that includes non-volatile operation based on a moving domain wall form of magnetic RAM. The second is an area- and power efficient form of ternary CAM (TCAM).

The spin-CAM uses the vertical magnetization of vertical domain wall elements in a cobalt-nickel active layer in order to non-volatile storage of CAM data.

The researchers have built a 16-kbit Spin-CAM test chip in a 90-nm process with 5-ns search cycle time and a 6.6-square-micron memory cell. Use of this new CAM enables the development of electronics that start instantly and consume zero electricity while in standby mode. The circuit has a write current of 200-microamps in 90-nm process technology.

Such circuits have been created before but at lower performance than traditional CAMs. In order for CAMs to be both non-volatile and to maintain a high speed, two complementary spintronics devices, spinning in opposite directions to one another, were connected within the same cell. In addition two three-terminal devices are used to separate the read current path from the write current path.

The research team is working to reduce the program current and the domain wall can be made to move with a 50-microamp current in a cobalt-iron-boron active layer. Domain-wall motion will scale further with geometry said Dr Tadahiko Sugibayashi, senior manager of the Green Innovation Research Laboratories at NEC who is a co-author on the paper with Professor Hideo Ohno of the center of integrated spintronics research at the University of Tohoku.

This story was originally posted by EE Times.

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