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NRAM Brings Nanotubes to Silicon

October 2, 2018

Author: David Kanter

Nantero is pioneering the use of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) in a silicon process to create NRAM, a new type of resistive nonvolatile memory. NRAM should offer DRAM-like performance and density with nearly unlimited endurance and retention. The company licenses this technology to other companies that will manufacture and sell NRAM products. The first such products could reach production in 2020.

NRAM formation employs CMOS-compatible technology steps in a chip’s interconnect layer and is vertically stackable. NRAM cells can operate in both single-layer and 3D multilayer configurations to emphasize density or performance. The properties of CNTs naturally maintain the cell’s resistance in either a high or low state that a chip can sense during a read. Writing a cell is more complicated and requires a higher (but still logic-friendly) voltage to change the CNTs’ positioning.

Nantero has spent 17 years developing the CMOS-compatible CNT materials, the CNT-deposition process, and the methods for integrating that process into CMOS flows as well as for characterizing many of NRAM’s unique properties. Among these properties are extreme write endurance, near immunity to soft errors, high temperature tolerances, low-power operation, and DRAM-like latencies. Many the NRAM properties have been verified on test chips, including a 140nm 4Mb design.

The company’s next step is to prove that CNT manufacturing flows can yield at high volume by productizing a 28nm 16Gb memory that recently taped out and by integrating that memory into a standard DDR4 DIMM.

Subscribers can view the full article in the Microprocessor Report.

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