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Unisantis Memory Mixes DRAM, Flash

August 17, 2021

Author: Jim Turley

Unisantis, a small Singaporean startup, is developing a new “dynamic flash” memory technology that combines aspects of DRAM and flash memory. It ambitiously hopes this hybrid approach will eventually supplant commodity DRAM as the de facto standard for high-volume memory in everything from PCs and servers to embedded IoT devices. It has secured several hundred patents but has yet to fabricate any chips, meaning commercial production is years away. Unisantis has its headquarters in Singapore, but the core staff is Japanese. Chief among them is Fujio Masuoka, who is widely credited with inventing NOR flash memory in 1980 while at Toshiba and NAND flash shortly thereafter. Toshiba (now Kioxia) has been a dominant flash-memory supplier ever since.

The company’s memory design combines aspects of NAND or NOR flash physical fabrication with the volatility and refresh requirements of DRAM. Based on a surround-gate transistor with no trench capacitor, its floating body holds capacitive charge like a DRAM. But memory cells are erased in blocks, like flash. Writing 1s and 0s involves two different processes (also like flash), and cells must be refreshed periodically like DRAM.

Unisantis hopes its design will offer better bit density than current DRAMs, leading to lower manufacturing cost. But its size, cost, and performance claims are all based on simulations, not physical samples. And the memory market has proven notoriously tough to crack, with cost being the overriding factor. Any new memory must be cheaper than the alternatives, or it will be relegated to nice status, if that.

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