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Motorola develops 4 Mbit MRAM chips

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Motorola has begun sampling the first of its 4 Mbit magnetoresistive random access memory (MRAM) chips to select customers.

Based on 0.18 micron five-level metal CMOS process technology, the 4-Mbit (256 K by 16) “toggle” MRAM chip is a significant advancement on the company’s demonstration of a 1-Mbit MRAM using 0.60 micron technology in June last year. Motorola will present details of this “toggle” approach to MRAM at the 2003 IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting in Washington DC in December.

“The fact that Motorola has demonstrated a 4-Mbit MRAM chip based on a 0.18-micron technology is great news for the industry,” says Bob Merritt, vice president of Emerging Technologies with Semico Research Corporation. “The advancement over the 1-Mbit MRAM using 0.60-micron technology [is] like stepping over four or five process generations in little more than a year.”

“For the past several years, Motorola has led the industry in MRAM development with 256-kbit, 1-Mbit and now 4-Mbit devices,” continues Dr Claudine Simson, chief technology officer of Motorola’s Semiconductor Products Sector. “Our 4-Mbit MRAM chip not only showcases our technology, it will accelerate the industry’s acceptance of MRAM technology. We’ve made significant progress toward establishing a solid MRAM manufacturing technology capability. We’re now working with lead customers on performance refinements for future market introduction and broader sampling next year,” Dr Simson adds.

MRAM could replace multiple non-volatile memory devices in the future, and is well-suited for applications in harsh environments or systems requiring long system life such as automotive and industrial. Honeywell has already recognised MRAM’s potential by recently licensing Motorola’s MRAM technology for military and aerospace applications.

Motorola’s process technology addresses three of the most fundamental challenges facing MRAM implementation - bit selectivity, data retention and scaling, Dr Simson says.

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