Intel, STMicroelectronics Deliver Industry's First Phase Change Memory Prototypes

Feb 06, 2008

Intel Corporation and STMicroelectronics reached a key industry milestone today as they began shipping prototype samples of a future product using a new, innovative memory technology called Phase Change Memory (PCM). The prototypes are the first functional silicon to be delivered to customers for evaluation, bringing the technology one step closer to adoption.

The memory device, codenamed "Alverstone" uses PCM, a promising new memory technology providing very fast read and write speeds at lower power than conventional flash, and allows for bit alterability normally seen in RAM. PCM has long been a topic of discussion for research and development, and with "Alverstone," Intel and STMicroelectronics are helping to move the technology into the marketplace.

"This is the most significant non-volatile memory advancement in 40 years," said Ed Doller, chief technology officer-designate of Numonyx, the new name for the pending STMicroelectronics and Intel flash memory company. "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, Intel and STMicroelectronics technologists presented a research paper this week at the International Solid States Circuits Conference (ISSCC) describing yet another breakthrough in PCM technology. Together, the companies created the world’s first demonstrable high-density, multi-level cell (MLC) large memory device using PCM technology. The move from single bit per cell to MLC also brings significantly higher density at a lower cost per Mbyte making the combination of MLC and PCM a powerful development.

In 2003, Intel and STMicroelectronics formed a joint development program (JDP) to focus on Phase Change Memory development. Previously the JDP demonstrated 8Mb memory arrays on 180nm at the 2004 VLSI conference and first disclosed the Alverstone 90nm 128Mbit memory device at the 2006 VLSI Symposium. Alverstone and future JDP products will become part of Numonyx, a new independent semiconductor company created through an agreement between STMicroelectronics, Intel and Francisco Partners signed in May 2007. The new company's strategic focus will be on supplying complete memory solutions for a variety of consumer and industrial devices, including cellular phones, MP3 players, digital cameras, computers and other high-tech equipment. The companies are scheduled to close the transaction in the first quarter of 2008.

In 2007, the combined memory market for DRAM, flash, and other memory products such as EEPROM was US$61 billion, according to the industry research firm Web-Feet Research, Inc. Memory technology cost declines have traditionally been driven at the rate of "Moore’s Law," 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. The advent of multi-level-cell PCM will further accelerate the cost per bit crossover of PCM technology relative to today's technologies. Finally, 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.

Alverstone is a 128Mb device built on 90nm and is intended to allow memory customers to evaluate PCM features, allowing cellular and embedded customers to learn more about PCM and how it can be incorporated into their future system designs.

Source: Intel

Explore further: NTT Electronics ships industry's first 20nm low-power coherent DSP

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Record iPhone weekend sales top 10 million

1 hour ago

Apple said Monday it sold more than 10 million of its new iPhone models globally in the opening weekend of record sales of the bigger-screen version of its smartphone.

Victoria team defend title with speedy robot

1 hour ago

A team from Victoria's School of Engineering and Computer Science, led by Robby Lopez, beat 15 other teams from Australian and New Zealand universities to take top honours in the 2013 competition with its ...

Line says no IPO this year

2 hours ago

The Japan-based operator of popular mobile messaging app Line said Monday it has decided not to go ahead with an initial public offering in Japan or overseas this year.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

plasma_guy
not rated yet Mar 07, 2008
It looks like Intel has a conflict of interest between promoting their flash or promoting their phase-change memory. Knowing their management, they will pick the flash. Especially if PCM is more expensive to make than Flash and charge positioning is always faster than atom positioning. Flash prices keep dropping.