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Flash storage faces challenge from Crossbar's RRAM

Agam Shah | July 1, 2014
The hunt for memory technology to replace NAND flash storage within the next 10 years is under way, and startup Crossbar is planning to bringing its version of RRAM (resistive random-access memory) technology to market next year.

"Until they reach that milestone, all bets are off," Handy said.

Other forms of nonvolatile memory under development being considered as possible NAND replacements include phase-change memory and FRAM (ferroelectric RAM), which have been under development for decades, but according to Handy, are losing support.

Startup Everspin is already shipping a form of MRAM (magnetoresistive random access memory) in small volumes to some customers that need fast write capabilities. Everspin's MRAM is being used in products like ATMs, gambling machines and storage cards, where data retention is key in case of a power loss. Hewlett-Packard has announced its own form of memory called Memristor, which is another form of RRAM.

Crossbar's brand of RRAM looks for a change of resistance to read data in the form of 1s and 0s, which differs from NAND flash and other forms of memory. Crossbar's RRAM takes a layered approach to storing data as opposed to trapping a charge or using transistors. The three layers include a switch sandwiched between metallic and non-metallic electrodes. Positive or negative charges can be passed to read, write and delete data.

The initial design involved putting memory cells in a planar status, placing them right next to each other. But Crossbar has managed to layer memory cells to add more storage capacity, while keeping power consumption down, Kumar said.

Crossbar's RRAM will be made using conventional CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) technology, commonly used to make chips. The first RRAM chips will be made using the 40-nanometer process, followed by an upgrade to the smaller and more power-efficient 28-nm process.


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