Freescale Puts Magnetic Memory Technology Into Play

Freescale Semiconductor staked out an industry first with the commercial availability of its speedy, non-volatile Magnetoresistive Random Access Memory (MRAM) technology, which the Austin, Texas, company is already producing in volume.

The MRAM solution joins the speed of static random access memory (SRAM) and the stability of flash memory, and could herald new classes of mobile computing devices, Freescale said.

The company’s memory technology, indeed a first, is not expected to compete with other flash memory solutions used today. It does represent, however, a new type of computer memory that is needed for the semiconductors powering many of today’s next-generation mobile devices, Semico Research Vice President Bob Merritt told TechNewsWorld.

“This is the beginning of, I think, the newer forms of memory technology we’ve been waiting for for this mobile market,” he said.

Memory Milestone

Freescale, a spinoff of mobile phone and chip company Motorola, said its first product, the MR2A16A, would be a suitable SRAM replacement in applications such as networking, security, data storage, gaming and printers.

“The commercial launch of the industry’s first MRAM product is a major milestone made possible by the pioneering research of Freescale technologists,” said Freescale Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Sumit Sadana. “The unique capabilities of MRAM technology have numerous, exciting applications in our target markets.”

Other applications of the memory technology include cache buffers and configuration storage memories, according to Freescale.

Speeding Ahead

The MRAM semiconductor technology is significant for its SRAM-level speed, as well as for the fact that it is actually in the market, Gartner Vice President Martin Reynolds told TechNewsWorld.

“It’s very fast,” he said. That’s the key to MRAM.”

Freescale will likely follow MRAM’s release with improvements such as smaller sized components, Reynolds said. All of the major semiconductor players are working on the technology as well.

“Whether they’ll bring it to market remains to be seen,” he added. “It bears watching.”

Mobile Meaning

Most memory on the market today — including flash memory — originated from “box level” computing designs, Semico’s Merritt explained.

“Moore’s Law is basically taking PCs off the desktop and away from the outlet,” he said.

Though he acknowledged that MRAM technology may be limited to niche applications at first, he stressed that all new memory technologies have to start somewhere.

Notably, an emerging application for Freescale’s MRAM memory technology is in the automotive arena, among the “fastest growing” segments of the semiconductor market, Merritt said.

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