CEO interview: Nantero's Schmergel says NRAM production is close: Page 2 of 5

March 29, 2018 //By Peter Clarke
CEO interview: Nantero's Schmergel says NRAM production is close
Nantero Inc. (Woburn, Mass.), founded in 2001, has been ploughing a painstaking path towards the introduction of its carbon nanotube (CNT) based non-volatile memory technology. eeNews Europe caught up with CEO Greg Schmergel and asked about progress.

"Fujitsu is on track for production in 2019. The Mie Fujitsu foundry will be making NRAM for Fujitsu and for other customers as well. It is a 256Mbit NRAM," said Schmergel. What about Fujitsu moving to 40nm? "That remains the plan. But it is up to them to announce the timing of the introduction of 40nm." Schmergel states that the Fujitsu implementation of NRAM is initially as an embedded memory.

Currently Fujitsu Semiconductor provides ferroelectric RAMs (FRAMs) and microcontrollers with FRAM on-chip although it is thought that FRAM will have difficulty in scaling to leading-edge processes, hence interest in alternative non-volatile memories.

Nantero also has at least one licensee working at 28nm on stand-alone 16Gbit DDR4 non-volatile DRAM replacement with a four-layer construction, Schmergel said. "This is much lower power, and at a lower price, than DRAM." There is also the option to produce a two-layer 8Gbit NRAM, he added.

The power consumption save comes from both the low-energy write and the non-volatility, which allows systems to be switched off and retain data, Schmergel said. In contrast, DRAM needs to be refreshed to retain data. The proposed 16Gbit chip has a similar die area to an equivalent DRAM but as a four-layer memory it uses a more mature process technology, thereby saving cost. In the DRAM field Samsung has recently moved to a second-generation 10nm-class manufacturing – so-called 1Ynm technology – to manufacture 8Gbit DDR4 DRAMs.

However, Schmergel said he doesn't expect to see samples for these stand-alone NRAM devices until late 2019.

For a company that has been working on its technology since 2001 and is still yet to get products into the market this could be frustrating, but as Nantero is a company with an ARM-like business model it is up to licensees to determine when products come out, said Schmergel.

One of the most important developments, Schmergel said, is a cross-point architecture that does not require a selector device. Schmergel said Nantero made the development a few years ago, has not presented it at any learned conferences but that it allows for a compact array. Schmergel gave no indication of how Nantero gets round the "sneak-path" problem in cross-point arrays that do not either use a blocking diode or selector device. Schmergel said that conventional 1T1R NRAM arrays would be used for lower density products.

Next: Long-time coming

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