ARM forms spin-off to pursue CeRAM memory

October 02, 2020 // By Peter Clarke
ARM forms spin-off to pursue CeRAM memory
IP licensor ARM Ltd. has formed a spin-off company, Cerfe Labs Inc. (Austin, Texas), to develop bulk-switching, non-volatile memories capable of scaling to advanced nodes.

A bulk-switching non-volatile memory has the potential to outperform resistive RAMs, which are usually based on the making and breaking of filamentary conduction paths between electrodes. According to Cerfe the so-called correlated electron RAM (CeRAM) also has the potential to rival magnetic RAM and SRAM, although further development work is required.

The company's founders are some of the leaders of ARM's research community and ARM is providing initial funding and taking a minority stake in the company although the exact terms and amount of funding have not been disclosed.

The company has developed out of a five-year research program conducted by ARM in partnership with Symetrix Corp. (Colorado Springs, Colo.) the originator of the CeRAM technology. It is based on metal-to-insulator state transitions, and their reversal, in transition metal oxides such as nickel oxide. In 2018 semiconductor manufacturing equipment maker Applied Materials Inc. was selected by DARPA to join the research on CeRAM (see Applied, ARM to develop CeRAM for neuromorphic applications).

"Over the last five years the ARM Research team has made great progress on advancing CeRAM technology," said Simon Segars, CEO of ARM, in a statement. "As ARM strengthens focus on its core semiconductor IP business, we are putting the Cerfe Labs team in a more agile position to be successful in their work to bring this disruptive technology to market," Segars added.

Cerfe's founders include CEO Eric Hennenhoefer, a former vice president of research at ARM; CTO Greg Yeric, a former ARM Fellow; and vice president of research Lucian Shifren who was responsible for starting and running the materials and device research group which brought Symetrix and ARM together. A fourth co-founder is Kim Asal, also previously with ARM research, who serves as vice president of operations.

Greg Yeric speaking at the ARM Technology Conference in 2017.

"We are focusing our company on materials and device R&D with prototyping. We don't ultimately see ourselves delivering memory products. We would expect that to be through a strategic partner," said Yeric in email correspondence. "We think we have 12 to 18 months ahead of us to achieve the remaining key proof points that would make the clear case that this technology is ready to jump across the 'lab-to-fab' chasm," he added.

Next: Bulk switching

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