Taiwanese firms claim the first phase-change memory (PRAM) will be available within three years, while the first magnetoresistive RAM (MRAM) may be available by the end of next year.
he Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), in partnership with six Taiwanese chip makers, started developing phase-change memory two years ago. So far, the group has been awarded about 50 patents for the technology and produced prototype chips and finished silicon wafers. Silicon wafers are the raw materials chips are etched on, and a single wafer holds dozens or hundreds of finished chips. A finished wafer is a sign of progress for a new chip manufacturing technology.
The original research partnership between ITRI and its chip partners will end next June, but a new partnership will likely be formed, said Chang Shun-hsien, promotion manager for ITRI's Nanoelectronic Technology Division.
PRAM can retain data when power to the chips is shut off, similar to conventional flash memory. But PRAM can rewrite data 30 times faster flash memory, and is expected to have at least 10 times the life span.
Several other companies are also developing phase-change memory, which serve as a replacement for DRAM and other applications, such as embedded memory.
MRAM combines the ability to retain data when power is shut off with fast processing speeds comparable to DRAM. DRAM is speedy, but it cannot retain data without electrical power.