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Micrograph of the MR2A16A MRAM device

Schematic of a 1-transistor, 1-MTJ memory cell showing the write lines above and below the bit and the read current path
All the benefits of flash memory and none of the drawbacks... except cost

Freescale Semiconductor Inc. announced the availability of its new memory chips which could possibly make some pretty large waves in the semiconductor industry. The company's magnetoresistive random-access memory (MRAM) is capable of retaining data without power like flash memory chips, but also has the ability to read and write data at much greater speeds. Also, unlike flash memory chips, MRAM doesn't degrade over time. Flash memory cells have been shown to lose integrity after 100,000 to 1 million cycles.

MRAM devices are capable of read and write speeds of 200MB/sec. For comparison, Samsung’s newly introduced 2Gb 60nm OneNand chips are capable of read speeds of 108MB/sec and write speeds of 17MB/sec. BusinessWeek reports:

Sometimes referred to as "universal" memory, MRAM could displace a number of chips found in every electronic device, from PCs, cell phones, music players and cameras to the computing components of kitchen appliances, cars and airplanes. "This is the most significant memory introduction in this decade," said Will Strauss, an analyst with research firm Forward Concepts. "This is radically new technology. People have been dabbling in this for years, but nobody has been able to make it in volume."

Companies like Toshiba, NEC and IBM have announced continued research and breakthroughs in MRAM technology, but Freescale is the first to announce commercial availability of the product. Freescale, which has been producing its 4Mb chips for the past two months in Arizona, was spun off from Motorola just two years ago. While it may be a while before consumers can see the benefits of products based around MRAM designs, it’s good to hear that manufacturers can now get a hold of production quality chips to develop new products.





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