Intel, Numonyx Invent the Memory Club Sandwich
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Intel and Numonyx B.V., the memory company spun-off from Intel and STMicroelectronics, have unveiled a key breakthrough in the development of phase-change memory (PCM), a new type of memory that allows for stacking up multiple layers of PCM arrays within a single die.
Normally on a memory stick, memory chips are placed side by side and connected with copper wires. This development could pave the way for a new manufacturing process that would allow several memory layers to be stacked on top of each other, so more memory can be packed into a given area.
The new research could result in much higher memory capacity in much smaller places, such as smart phones. Fewer chips would also mean less overall power consumption, and all of the other usual benefits from putting fewer chips into a tight space.
"We continue to develop the technology pipeline for memories in order to advance the computing platform," Al Fazio, Intel Fellow and director of memory technology development, said in a statement. "We are encouraged by this research milestone and see future memory technologies ... as critical for extending the role of memory in computing solutions and in expanding the capabilities for performance and memory scaling."
PCM is a novel form of experimental memory that stores data in small cells of a special compound that can change its physical states -- from or to crystalline and amorphous -- with the application of heat. The chips can run faster and last longer than conventional transistor-based NAND chips.
The technology is seen as a potential successor to NAND flash memory because it has DRAM's strengths. For example, PCM bits can be individually altered, whereas flash requires a separate erase cycle.
PCM also has faster access time than NAND, so it can be used to both store and execute. For instance, a file like a Word document has to be read from NAND into regular DRAM before it can be opened. In PCM, it can be stored, opened, and written to all from PCM.
Intel and Numonyx will publish a joint paper and present it at the 2009 International Electron Devices Meeting in Baltimore on Dec. 9.