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Memory breakthroughs promise single atom memory, speed of light computing, terabyte smartphones and instant-start computers

The explosion of connected devices and digital services is generating massive amounts of new  data. Digital world is growing exponentially from 4.4 zettabytes (10 21 or 1 sextillion bytes) of digital data created in 2013 to an expected 44 zettabytes by 2024. To make this data useful, it must be stored and analyzed very quickly, however it’s far easier to generate zettabytes of data than to manufacture zettabytes of data storage capacity. It is estimated that  demand for capacity has outstripped production by six zettabytes, or nearly double the demand of 2013 alone.


This  create challenges for service providers and system builders who must balance cost, power and performance trade-offs when they design memory and storage solutions. Digital information can be stored in different types of device depending on the use and how frequently the data need to be accessed. Hard disk drives are magnetic devices that allow storing terabytes of data for long time, however speed of access to the data is relatively slow (a few milliseconds). On the other hand, data that are being used by a computer processor to perform an operation need to be accessed on a much faster timescale (nanoseconds).


Semiconductor memory is a type of semiconductor device tasked with storing data. Any computer processing technology uses semiconductor memory. Memory cards are commonplace for temporarily storing data in a wide variety of next-generation technologies, including in cameras and mobile phones, home security systems, wearable patient monitors, and other applications.


There are two main types of semiconductor memory technology: non-volatile ROM (read-only memory) and volatile RAM (random access memory). The most commonly employed form of primary storage at present is an instable form of RAM or random access memory, which means that when the computer is turned off, all the contents stored in the random access memory is lost.


Volatile memories, such as static random-access memory (SRAM) and dynamic random-access memory (DRAM), need voltage supply to hold their information while nonvolatile memories, namely Flash memories, hold their information without one. Most devices like smartphones and notebooks currently use a combination of dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) and flash memory, with the former acting as active memory while devices are on, and the latter being used to store data long-term (off or on).


Nevertheless, several different types of non-volatile memory have certain limitations that tend to make them an unsuitable option for usage as a primary storage mode. Usually, the cost of non-volatile memory is more and also its performance is low. Moreover, its endurance is also lower than volatile RAM.


A wide gap is emerging between data generation and hard drive and flash production. With the exponential growth in the capacity of information generated and the emerging need for data to be stored for prolonged period of time, there emerges a need for a storage medium with high capacity, high storage density, and possibility to withstand extreme environmental conditions.

Memory technologies

Flash memory is widely used in consumer electronic products such as cell phones and music players. NAND Flash-based solid-state disks (SSDs) are increasingly displacing hard disk drives as the primary storage device in laptops, desktops, and even data centers. However, Flash is slow and has low endurance. The integration limit of Flash memories is approaching; NAND cannot scale down past 10nm while DRAM and SRAM are costly.


Non-Volatile memory or NVM is a different kind of computer memory that has been programmed to recover stored data and information even after being switched off and back on. A few examples of non-volatile memory are punched cards, paper tape, optical discs, magnetic tape, floppy discs, hard disk drives, ferroelectric RAM, flash memory, and read-only memory. This special type of memory is specifically employed for the purpose of a long-term persistent storage or secondary storage.


New nonvolatile memory technologies are emerging such as magnetic random-access memory (MRAM), spin-transfer torque random-access memory (STT-RAM), ferroelectric random-access memory (FeRAM), phase-change memory (PCM), and resistive random-access memory (RRAM), that combine the speed of static random-access memory (SRAM), the density of dynamic random-access memory (DRAM), and the nonvolatility of Flash memory and becoming very attractive for future memory hierarchies. Western Digital, owner of the SanDisk brand, has  unveiled what it calls the “world’s first” 1TB SD card. It’s only a prototype, but already the company is touting the card’s ability to adequately handle 4K, 8K, VR and 360-degree video when it officially becomes available


Semiconductor Memory Developments

A month later, Intel Corporation and Oracle created the world’s first and only shared persistent memory system. At the same time, Intel also unveiled Barlow Pass, its second-generation memory modules, to improve bandwidth for data centers. In June 2020, Infineon Technologies created the first memory solution to combine security and functional safety in a single NOR flash device.


New research developments are also paving the way for progressive memory tech. Engineers from the University of Texas at Austin created the smallest memory device to date, offering faster, smaller, and more energy-efficient performance. The possibilities of the quantum internet are also becoming more real as scientists work to transfer efficiency between quantum memory devices.


Memory Technology for IoT Devices

IoT devices need to be inexpensive and small to appeal to the mass market; hence the silicon area of these devices becomes very important. Designers also strive to minimize wafer processing costs, as extra masks or processing steps results in increased cost. Instead of using a generalized, “one-size-fits-all” architecture, designers need to analyze the exact use models of their products to plan the architecture and memory accordingly.


Embedded NVM offers a performance advantage for IoT devices, as it makes it unnecessary to copy code to on-chip RAM on power up from external memory. The embedded multiple-time programmable (MTP) and one-time programmable (OTP) memory market has seen considerable growth as the memories are a strong fit for IoT dimension and performance requirements. Due to its robust endurance, embedded flash (eFlash) memory is highly desirable in IoT applications requiring storage of critical data and code. The field programming capability provides great flexibility for last minute system-level changes.

In 2015, Kilopass Technology, Inc., has unveiled its new semiconductor embedded non-volatile memory (eNVM) , the X2Bit™ bitcell, delivering 10X power reduction compared to currently available eNVM technologies.The X2Bit bitcell is ideally suited for next-generation IoT devices that demand less than 10uA/MHz in read currents. Currently available eNVM technologies typically consume 100uA/MHz under comparable operating conditions. Kilopass products employing the X2Bit bitcell would operate with core voltage supplies as low as 0.75V that are used in the emerging Ultra-Low-Power (ULP) process technologies from semiconductor manufacturers. The X2Bit bitcell lowers the turn-on voltage by optimizing the programming condition.


Benefits are twofold. First, since power consumption is directly proportional to the square of operating voltage, lowering the read voltage by two-thirds would result in tenfold power reduction. Equally important, with lower turn-on voltage, the memory macro would be able to operate at the same operating voltage as the rest of the chip, without resorting to power consuming charge pumps and voltage regulators.


In August 2019, Macronix International released ArmorFlash total solution to address IoT information security challenges, leading the frontier of flash memory security protection. The number of connected IoT devices worldwide is expected to top 20 billion units in 2020. The astoundingly large quantity of IoT devices also brings public concerns over their vulnerability in terms of information security. In view of this, Macronix has launched whole new MX7 flash memory solutions with ArmorFlash. Each memory chip is added with a PUF code that is generated with the chip’s unique characteristics obtained using Macronix’s internally developed technology. Accordingly, each memory chip is incorporated with a critical security module which can serve as a secure ID or key for a wide range of identification or encryption urgently needed by burgeoning IoT, automotive electronics, wearable devices, smart home and industrial applications.


 Intel   Memory Technology Breakthroughs

At Intel’s Memory and Storage 2020 event on Dec. 16, the company highlighted six new memory and storage products to help customers meet the challenges of digital transformation, 5G, network transformation, artificial intelligence and the intelligent edge. Key to advancing innovation across memory and storage, Intel announced two new additions to its Intel® Optane™ Solid State Drive (SSD) series: the Intel® Optane™ SSD P5800X, the world’s fastest data center SSD, and the Intel® Optane™ Memory H20 for client, which features performance and mainstream productivity for gaming and content creation. Optane helps meet the needs of modern computing by bringing memory closer to the CPU. The company also revealed its intent to deliver its 3rd generation of Intel® Optane™ persistent memory (code-named “Crow Pass”) for cloud and enterprise customers.


Optane is the name accorded for a type of memory and SSD based on 3D XPoint. Intel Corporation and Micron Technology, Inc. have developed 3D XPoint™ technology, a non-volatile memory technology that is up to 1,000 times faster and has up to 1,000 times greater endurance than NAND, and is 10 times denser than conventional memory. It combines the best of DRAM and NAND at the silicon level. The technology works by utilising a unique property of glass containing chalcogens such as sulphur or tellurium: this can be manipulated by a current to change states from amorphous to crystalline; a reversible phenomena which is then used to record memory. (The states correspond to logic 0 and 1).


Growing mountains of data, Large data sets,  Demand for rapid insights, Rigid architecture are leading to  Data center bottlenecks. Storage architecture is one of the main stumbling blocks. Traditional spinning hard disk drives (HDDs) simply can’t feed information fast enough to modern, data-hungry CPUs. So, the point of diminishing returns—when adding more HDDs can’t meet your future needs—is already here. You could add more DRAM DIMMS to support some workloads, but that’s expensive, and you’ll soon bump into inherent limitations in DRAM capacities. In other words, it’s not scalable.


Intel Optane technology can help you easily step over the storage stumbling block and resolve other challenges. As the first major memory and storage breakthrough in more than 25 years, this technology allows data centers to deploy larger data sets more affordably. With low latency that is ideal for demanding applications, Intel Optane technology can help eradicate data bottlenecks and improve CPU utilization, which can help you mine value from those growing mountains of data.


In late 2018 Intel and Micron split, the latter exercising its right to buy out Intel’s stake in their joint venture IM Flash for $1.5 billion. A year later, in October 2019, Micron followed Intel with the release of its X100 SSD. This can handle a stunning 2.5 million input/output operations per second, triple today’s typical SSD offerings, and boasts the industry’s highest bandwidth at more than 9GB/s in read, write and mixed modes.


The innovative, transistor-less cross point architecture creates a three-dimensional checkerboard where memory cells sit at the intersection of word lines and bit lines, allowing the cells to be addressed individually. As a result, data can be written and read in small sizes, leading to faster and more efficient read/write processes. 3D XPoint is a “Fundamentally Different Technology” than current memory types.  It’s an ReRAM that uses material property changes for bit storage where both DRAM and NAND use charge to store a bit. The chip currently stores 128Gb in two stacked planes of 64Gb each, storing a single bit per cell. The companies said that 3D Xpoint is targeted at data centers, and described how applications and services would benefit immensely from “fast access to large sets of data.”


World’s smallest atom-memory unit created November  2020

The University of Texas at Austin created the smallest memory device yet. And in the process, they figured out the physics dynamic that unlocks dense memory storage capabilities for these tiny devices.  The research published recently in Nature Nanotechnology builds on a discovery from two years ago, when the researchers created what was then the thinnest memory storage device. In this new work, the researchers reduced the size even further, shrinking the cross section area down to just a single square nanometer.


Getting a handle on the physics that pack dense memory storage capability into these devices enabled the ability to make them much smaller. Defects, or holes in the material, provide the key to unlocking the high-density memory storage capability. “When a single additional metal atom goes into that nanoscale hole and fills it, it confers some of its conductivity into the material, and this leads to a change or memory effect,” said Deji Akinwande, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Though they used molybdenum disulfide — also known as MoS2 — as the primary nanomaterial in their study, the researchers think the discovery could apply to hundreds of related atomically thin materials.


“The results obtained in this work pave the way for developing future generation applications that are of interest to the Department of Defense, such as ultra-dense storage, neuromorphic computing systems, radio-frequency communication systems and more,” said Pani Varanasi, program manager for the U.S. Army Research Office, which funded the research. The original device — dubbed “atomristor” by the research team — was at the time the thinnest memory storage device ever recorded, with a single atomic layer of thickness. But shrinking a memory device is not just about making it thinner but also building it with a smaller cross-sectional area. “The scientific holy grail for scaling is going down to a level where a single atom controls the memory function, and this is what we accomplished in the new study,” Akinwande said.


Using van der Waals materials, USC researchers have made a breakthrough in non-volatile memory based on ferroelectric tunnel junctions.

Ferroelectric memory is a form of memory where information is stored in ferroelectric polarizations. Put simply, ferroelectric materials have a spontaneous electrical polarization that can be reversed by the application of an external electric field. As the ferroelectric polarization of these materials reverses, it either facilitates or inhibits the flow of current. This on/off characteristic is how digital information—1 or 0—is stored. This technology is commonly referred to as ferroelectric RAM (FRAM). A FRAM cell will utilize a ferroelectric capacitor, which stores the polarization, and a pass transistor to read out the state. This is very similar to a DRAM cell, except it doesn’t require a refresh, making it a non-volatile technology.


In order to miniaturize this technology such that it can be compatible with current CMOS nodes, scientists look to the ferroelectric tunnel junction. In an FTJ, two metal electrodes are separated by a thin ferroelectric layer, and the on/off state is determined by their tunneling electroresistance (TER). Here, the TER is affected by the potential difference across the ferroelectric barrier, along with a transmission and attenuation coefficient across the interface. The FTJ offers very low power consumption and fast write speed, and thus are promising for developing memory and computing applications. However, one of the major setbacks for FTJ technology is a lack of reliability. Historically, FTJs have a small barrier height modulation of about 0.1 eV, according to recent research. This means that there is a small detectable difference between different states of an FTJ, making it difficult to distinguish.


A new Army-funded study at the University of Southern California has come up with a way to eliminate this reliability issue. Researchers at the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering have married FTJ technology with van der Waals materials and have found some impressive results. van der Waals materials are those with strong in-plane covalent bonding and weak interlayer interactions. By merging these two technologies, researchers were able to create an FTJ with a barrier height modulation of 1 eV.


With this research, published in Nature, scientists have finally been able to create ferroelectric memory that is not subject to data corruption. Increasing the barrier height modulation allows for more easily distinguished states, making the technology more reliable. Han Wang, professor of ECE at USC, says, “These materials allow us to build devices that can potentially be scaled to atomic-scale thickness. This means the voltage required to read, write, and erase data can be drastically reduced which in turn can make the memory electronics much more energy efficient.” This improvement in FRAM technology could be the key to longer battery life and increased upload speeds in future generations of computers.

IBM scientists create an atom-sized magnet that could be the future of data storage in 2017

Researchers at IBM led by Andreas Heinrich, Director of the Center for Quantum Nanoscience, have discovered a way to store one bit of data on a single atom using magnets. Currently, hard drives store one bit of data using around 10,000 atoms.  Disks coated with a magnetized layer of metal allow our computers to store files in the form of bits, each with the value of either 1 or 0. A certain direction of magnetization corresponds to the 0 bit, the other direction to the 1 bit. This result is a breakthrough in the miniaturization of storage media and has the potential to serve as a basis for quantum computing. newly appointed  within the Institute of Basic Science (IBS, South Korea), led the research effort that made this discovery at IBM Almaden Research Center (USA).


In this study, scientists worked with a tool, called Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM), which has a special tip that enables the user to view and move individual atoms, as well as to apply a pulse of electrical current to them. They used this electric pulse to change the direction of magnetization of individual holmium atoms.


A quantum sensor, designed by Heinrich’s team and currently unique worldwide, was used to read the memory stored in the holmium atom. It consists of an iron atom placed next to the holmium atom. Using this technique, as well as another one, called tunnel magnetoresistance, the researchers could observe that holmium maintains the same magnetic state stably over several hours. Moore’s Law predicted that the amount of data that can be stored on a microchip would double every 18 months and indeed this happened for decades. The last model electronic devices are always smaller and more powerful than the previous one. However, as devices becomes smaller and smaller, since atoms are so close to each other, new interfering quantum properties begin to manifest and cause problems. The impossibility of keeping up with further miniaturization, brought experts to talk about the death of Moore’s Law.


Interestingly, holmium atoms seem to escape this fate, for still unknown reasons. “There are no quantum mechanical effects between atoms of holmium. Now we want to know why,” points out Heinrich. Holmium atoms can be arranged very closely together, so the storage density using this single-atom technique could be very high. He continues: “We have opened up new possibilities for quantum nanoscience by controlling individual atoms precisely as we want. This research may spur innovation in commercial storage media that will expand the possibilities of miniaturizing data storage.”


A team of researchers controlled a bismuth ferrite memory unit using laser illumination, reducing delay in data access and energy consumption

A team led by National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) physicists announced a major breakthrough in May 2019 regarding a next-generation memory storage material that is expected to multiply the efficiency of memory units and pave the way for quantum technology development.


Traditional memory devices process information based on two logic states — zero and one — while their efficiency can be improved only by increasing the density of components and reducing their size, department of physics assistant professor Yang Jan-chi (楊展其) said.To eliminate the bottleneck in memory development, the team turned to an alternative material — bismuth ferrite (BiFeO3), a material that can record eight logic states and keep the stored information for up to a year even when it is not powered or is heated up to 400°C, Yang said.


The main breakthrough involves controlling the material through laser illumination, which helps reduce delays in the reading of data and energy consumption, while boosting calculation efficiency, he said. No other researchers have attempted to control high-density memory material using optical means, he said. Yang, 32, is also enrolled in a Ministry of Science and Technology young talent cultivation program.


The development of BiFeO3 largely remains at the level of academic research and the team has found that the light-driven flexoelectric effect is key to its manipulation, professor Chen Yi-chun (陳宜君) said. As light presents alternating electromagnetic fields, it is seldom used to control the operations of memory materials, she said.Nonetheless, the team found that the material’s operations could be manipulated when placed on a surface whose strain gradient is slightly altered by illumination, she said.


The findings were detailed in a paper titled “Deterministic optical control of room temperature multiferroicity in BiFeO3 thin films,” published in the journal Nature Materials on May 6. The team submitted the manuscript in July last year and it was accepted in March 2019, Chen said.


The team expressed gratitude to collaborators at Hsinchu-based National Synchrotron Radiation Research Center and National Chiao Tung University, as well as members from Germany’s Max-Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids, the University of Texas at Arlington and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the University of New South Wales.


While more time is needed before the technology becomes commercially applicable, its discovery brings the nation a step closer to quantum computing technology, which would require highly efficient calculating units, NCKU vice president for research and development Hsieh Sun-yuan (謝孫源) said.


Carbon nanotube memory breakthrough

Advanced memory technology based on carbon nanotubes (CNTs) (NRAM) possesses desired properties for implementation in a host of integrated systems due to demonstrated advantages of its operation including high speed (nanotubes can switch state in picoseconds), high endurance (over a trillion), and low power (with essential zero standby power). The applicable integrated systems for NRAM have markets that will see compound annual growth rates (CAGR) of over 62% between 2018 and 2023, with an embedded systems CAGR of 115% in 2018–2023


Nantero has announced NRAM, a CNT-based memory, faster and more durable than flash, as fast and lower power than DRAM, and fabricated on standard DRAM lines. In addition, NRAM is compatible with existing CMOS fabs without needing any new tools or processes, and it is scalable even to below 5nm.


CNTs conduct electricity as well as copper, while being stronger than steel and as hard as diamond. Nantero’s process lays down a non-woven fabric of CNTs between two electrodes. NRAM works like a light switch: a greater-than-read voltage is applied, causing the CNTs to physically move, creating or breaking connections and flipping “0” to a “1” or vice versa. Once flipped the CNT fabric is very stable The CNT’s physical strength protects them from damage. NRAM is as fast as and denser than DRAM, nonvolatile like flash, has essentially zero power consumption in standby mode and 160x lower write energy per bit than flash,


Its advantages are unlimited endurance, more than 1000 years, Non-volatility at 85C, picosecond switching, and is highly resistant to environmental forces (heat even up to 300 degrees C, cold, magnetism, radiation, vibration). Nantero believes that 1Tb chips are possible with multiple layers of CNT NRAM. This makes NRAM the ideal solution for the next generation of memory technology for both standalone and embedded applications

 PCM (Phase Change Materials) Memory

Phase-change memory (PCM) devices have in recent years emerged as a game-changing alternative to computer random-access memory. Using heat to transform the states of material from amorphous to crystalline, PCM chips are fast, use much less power and have the potential to scale down to smaller chips – allowing the trajectory for smaller, more powerful computing to continue. However, manufacturing PCM devices on a large scale with consistent quality and long endurance has been a challenge.


Researchers from the universities of Oxford, Exeter and Münster have demonstrated a new technique that can store more optical data in a smaller space than was previously possible on-chip. This technique improves upon the phase-change optical memory cell, which uses light to write and read data, and could offer a faster, more power-efficient form of memory for computers. The scientists describe their new technique for all-optical data storage in the journal Optica.


Rather than using electrical signals to store data in one of two binary states as with conventional electronics-based computers, the optical memory cell uses light to store information. The researchers demonstrated optical memory with more than 32 states; the equivalent of 5 bits. They say that this development is an important step toward an all-optical computer. Research team leader Harish Bhaskaran from Oxford University’s Department of Materials commented, “By bringing the speed-of-light-based data transmission to the circuit board, our all-optical memory could enable a hybrid computer chip that interacts with data both optically and electrically.”


Ealier, Scientists at IBM Research  demonstrated a new level of efficiency for data storage with optical memory, using a storage format called phase-change memory (PCM) to store 3 bits of data. “Phase-change memory is the first instantiation of a universal memory with properties of both DRAM and flash, thus answering one of the grand challenges of our industry,” said lead researcher Haris Pozidis from IBM Research in Zurich, Switzerland. “Reaching 3 bits per cell is a significant milestone because at this density the cost of PCM will be significantly less than DRAM and closer to flash. PCM is upto 70 times faster than flash however they are about five to 10 times slower than DRAM. As IBM points out, another advantage of PCM is that the memory can survive at least 10 million write cycles, meaning hypothetically you could be getting a life-time warranty with the storage. Flash memory, on the other hand, only lasts around 3,000 write cycles before degrading.


PCM is nonvolatile random – access memory that stores information in the structural phase of the active materials. They are based on reversible phase conversion between the amorphous and the crystalline state of a chalcogenide glass, which is accomplished by heating and cooling of the glass. It utilizes the unique behavior of chalcogenide (a material that has been used to manufacture CDs), whereby the heat produced by the passage of an electric current switches this material between two states. The different states have different electrical resistance which can be used to store data.


Robert E. Simpson, and his colleagues have engineered strain into the layered material to tune its switching properties. A strained layered phase-change memory material switches phases five times faster, using about half the voltage, than traditional phase-change memory materials.




MRAM is a nonvolatile memory, unlike DRAM, the data is not stored in an electric charge flow, but by magnetic storage elements. The storage elements are formed by two ferromagnetic plates, each of which can hold a magnetic field, separated by a thin insulating layer. One of the two plates is a permanent magnet set to a particular polarity; the other’s field can be changed to match that of an external field to store memory.


‘Bending Current’ Opens Up the Way for a New Type of Magnetic Memory

In a MRAM bits are projected by the direction of the spin of the electrons in a piece of magnetic material: for example, upwards for a ‘1’ and downwards for a ‘0’. The storage of data occurs by flipping the spin of the electrons over to the correct side.


Magnetic random-access memory (MRAM) is more efficient and robust than other kinds of data storage, but switching bits still requires too much electrical power to make large-scale application practical. Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) researchers say they have solved this problem by using a “bending current,” an approach that flips the magnetic bits faster and more efficiently than with conventional methods.


The new method involves sending a current pulse under the bit, which bends the electrons at the correct spin upwards, and so through the bit. “It’s a bit like a soccer ball that is kicked with a curve when the right effect is applied,” says TU/e researcher Arno van den Brink.


Although the technique is exceptionally fast, it needs something to make the flipping reliable. Early attempts to do this required a magnetic field, but that made the method expensive and inefficient. The TU/e researchers say they solved this problem by applying a special anti-ferromagnetic material on top of the bits, enabling the requisite magnetic field to be frozen, achieving energy efficiency and low cost. “This could be the decisive nudge in the right direction for superfast MRAM in the near future,” van den Brink says.


Spintronic devices

Spin Transfer Torque Random Access Memory (STT-MRAM or STT-RAM) stores information in the magnetic state of Nano magnets, but it is electrically written and read. This combination allows fast-access, non-volatile information storage but with better scalability over traditional MRAM. It relies on the different spin directions of electrons to signal a binary one or zero. The STT is an effect in which the orientation of a magnetic layer in a magnetic tunnel junction or spin valve can be modified using a spin-polarized current.


Spin-transfer torque technology has the low power and low cost of flash memory, scales well below 10nm, and leverages existing CMOS manufacturing techniques and processes. It has the potential to make MRAM devices combining low current requirements and reduced cost possible; however, the amount of current needed to reorient the magnetization is at present too high for most commercial applications.

Multiferroic Memory Promises Low-Power, Instant-on Computing

A team at Cornell University led by postdoctoral associate John Heron has made a breakthrough for next-generation nonvolatile memory by successfully using an electric field to reverse the magnetization direction in a multiferroic spintronic device at room temperature. “Encoding of data in memory using only electric field instead of electric currents used by today’s computer memory technology resulting in large reduction of power consumption and heat generation , enhanced memory density and make low-power, instant-on computing a reality,” say researchers.


Multiferroics are materials in which unique combinations of electric and magnetic properties can simultaneously coexist. The researchers used bismuth ferrite a type of “multiferroic” material, that is both magnetic as it has its own, permanent local magnetic field, and also ferroelectric, meaning it’s always electrically polarized, and that polarization can be switched by applying an electric field. To demonstrate the potential technological applicability of their technique, Ramesh, Heron and their co-authors used heterostructures of bismuth ferrite and cobalt iron to fabricate a spin-valve, a spintronic device consisting of a non-magnetic material sandwiched between two ferromagnets whose electrical resistance can be readily changed


The multiferroic device require an order of magnitude lower energy than its chief competitor, spin-transfer torque magnetoresistive RAM (STTMRAM), however, STT memory is already available commercially, albeit in limited scope. Nonetheless, getting multiferroics to operate at room temperature is a major development.



RRAM is a nonvolatile memory that is similar to PCM. The technology concept is that a dielectric, which is normally insulating, can be made to conduct through a filament or conduction path formed after application of a sufficiently high voltage. This memristor technology is considered as potentially a strong candidate to challenge NAND Flash. At 16 Gb the Micron-Sony RRAM has the highest density commercialized among emerging NVM technologies.


Because of its greater density, RRAM will be able to use silicon wafers that are half the size used by current NAND flash fabricators. In a single chip, it has nearly 10 times the capacity of NAND flash and uses 20 times less power to store a bit of data. It also sports 100 times lower latency than NAND flash, meaning performance is massively improved, according to Crossbar.

Scientists discover new type of magnet

A team of scientists has discovered the first robust example of a new type of magnet—one that holds promise for enhancing the performance of data storage technologies. This “singlet-based” magnet differs from conventional magnets, in which small magnetic constituents align with one another to create a strong magnetic field. By contrast, the newly uncovered singlet-based magnet has fields that pop in and out of existence, resulting in an unstable force—but also one that potentially has more flexibility than conventional counterparts.


“Singlet-based magnets should have a more sudden transition between magnetic and non-magnetic phases. You don’t need to do as much to get the material to flip between non-magnetic and strongly magnetic states, which could be beneficial for power consumption and switching speed inside a computer, explains Andrew Wray, an assistant professor of physics at New York University, who led the research team.


“There’s also a big difference in how this kind of magnetism couples with electric currents. Electrons coming into the material interact very strongly with the unstable magnetic moments, rather than simply passing through. Therefore, it’s possible that these characteristics can help with performance bottlenecks and allow better control of magnetically stored information.”


Specifically, they found that USb2 holds the critical ingredients for this type of magnetism—particularly a quantum mechanical property called “Hundness” that governs how electrons generate magnetic moments. Hundness has recently been shown to be a crucial factor for a range of quantum mechanical properties, including superconductivity.


The work, published in the journal Nature Communications, also included researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the University of Maryland, Rutgers University, the Brookhaven National Laboratory, Binghamton University, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Current status

Currently, FRAM, MRAM, and PCM are in commercial production but still, relative to DRAM and NAND Flash, remain limited to niche applications. The race for a workable NVRAM is in its final stages. HP’s memristor, Crossbar’s RRAM and now, Nantero’s NRAM, are all technically sounded, backed by tens of millions of dollars in R&D, and close to broad market release.

Any new technology must be able to deliver most, if not all, of the following attributes in order to drive industry adoption on a mass scale: scalability of the technology, speed of the device, and power consumption to be better than existing memories. Reliability, and the raw cost of memory are also another criteria in determining the economic success or failure of each system product brought to market.


Market growth

The chip memory market is growing fast. In 2019, the global semiconductor memory market was valued at more than 90 billion dollars and predicted to grow at a 6.1 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2020 to 2027. By then, experts predict the market size will grow to 134 billion dollars. The non-volatile memory market is expected to be worth USD 80.54 Billion by 2022, growing at an estimated CAGR of 9.93% between 2016 and 2022. The market for 3D NAND would grow at the highest CAGR between 2016 and 2022



The rapid growth in the electronics industry skyrocketed due to the increased use of advanced devices like smartphones, wearable devices, and automotive technology. With more electronic gadgets stocking the shelves, the global memory trade is thriving.

The global market for non-volatile memory is largely driven by the growing demand for easy and fast access along with rising need for low power consuming memory devices. This has impacted the led to an expanded consumption of NVM particularly in the industries such as healthcare, automotive, and consumer electronics. Henceforth, the global non-volatile memory market is likely to expand at a moderate rate over the coming years owing to the facilities such as optimized consumption of power and high speed access of data.

Several forces have contributed to semiconductor memory growth:

  • The rising integration of the Internet of Things (IoT) into automotive, consumer electronics, and industrial applications is a major driver of the market.
  • Consumer trends have shifted from traditional electronic products towards smart devices.
  • The development of IoT and smart electronics improves manufacturing capacity and reduces the cost of the product.
  • The growth of artificial intelligence and big data demands high operating memory speed and capacity.
  • Large companies have started using memory chips with high storage to resolve data center complexities.



Yet, the continuing onset of the COVID-19 pandemic will shake up the electronics supply chain over the next few years. According to Deloitte, the pandemic may create longer-term disruptions to the value chain, from materials to product launches. Big electronics companies like Sony Electronics, Dell Computers, Square, and others have even withdrawn their 2021 forecasts because of the ongoing uncertainty presented by COVID-19. Additionally, trade tensions and new tariffs between China and the U.S. have resulted in recent closures and lost profits.


However, the growth of the market is likely to be inhibited by its limited storage capability and substantially low rate of write endurance. Regardless of the several challenges, market vendors can expect opportunities from the rising demand for non-volatile memory in flexible electronics and the emergence of innovative and advanced storage techniques such as NRAM, SONOS, MRAM, and 3D XPoint.


The market for 3D NAND memory-based products is expected to grow at the highest rate as 3D NAND mainly solves the scaling limitation problem in NAND and is expected to be used widely in consumer electronics products, such as smart phone, tablet, PCs, laptops and digital cameras and replace NAND memory completely in coming years.


Different types of NVM such as embedded non-volatile memory and traditional non-volatile memory. The market for 3D and 2D NAND is likely to be extensively be driven by the growing demand for Flash memories in the section of consumer electronics due to properties such as low consumption of power and low price.


The major players in the market include Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., Micron Technology Inc., Sandisk Corporation, Crossbar Inc., Fujitsu Ltd., Sidense Corporation, Adesto Technologies Corporation, Intel Corporation, Kilopass Technology Inc., and Viking Technology.


References and Resources also include:

  1. http://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/materials/multiferroic-memory0device-promises-lowpower-instanton-computing
  2. http://cacm.acm.org/news/199365-bending-current-opens-up-the-way-for-a-new-type-of-magnetic-memory/fulltext
  3. http://phys.org/news/2015-05-pattern-recognition-magnonic-holographic-memory.html
  4. http://www.materials360online.com/newsDetails/60817;jsessionid=D3BE63D0E1CF2DC1CAECF592F89C9B11
  5. http://www.sciencealert.com/ibm-s-new-memory-is-over-50-times-faster-than-flash-and-could-soon-be-just-as-cheap
  6. http://www.ibs.re.kr/cop/bbs/BBSMSTR_000000000738/selectBoardArticle.do?nttId=14355
  7. http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/computing-at-the-speed-of-light/article18080358.ece
  8. https://www.pcauthority.com.au/News/466963,toshiba-announces-96-layer-3d-nand-breakthrough.aspx
  9. https://phys.org/news/2019-02-scientists-magnet.html?utm_source=nwletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weekly-nwletter

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