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512 megabit PRAM cell
Bigger, better, faster

Samsung today announced that it has introduced a new type of nonvolatile memory called PRAM or Phase-change Random Access Memory. The new memory technology is currently under heavy research from Samsung, but the company has finally demonstrated a working 512 megabit sample. According to Samsung, PRAM is slated to replace current NOR flash memory technology within the next several years.

PRAM, says Samsung, is much faster than the fastest NOR flash memory. Samsung indicated that PRAM achieves its performance by changing the way it writes and reads to memory. Unlike current NOR flash, PRAM does not have to erase data before writing new data. This alone achieves 30 times the performance of current memory technology said Samsung. Durability and endurance are also a key development for PRAM, allowing products to last at least 10 times longer.

Samsung indicated that PRAM will be a positive forward step for consumer products as well -- lowering prices thanks to new manufacturing techniques. Samsung said that PRAM cells are half the size of NOR flash memory and requires 20 percent fewer manufacturing steps to produce. PRAM will make an introduction into the market sometime in early 2008. According to the press release:

Adoption of PRAM is expected to be especially popular in the future designs of multi-function handsets and for other mobile applications, where faster speeds translate into immediately noticeable boosts in performance. High-density versions will be produced first, starting with 512 Mb.

Flash memory in general has exploded in the last two years. The market has grown significantly and companies are continuing to invest heavily into flash RAM development and manufacturing. Recently, SanDisk announced that it would acquire M-Systems for $1.35 billion, bolstering its market position significantly. Intel and Micron have also joined forces to produce volumes of NAND flash memory. In July, both SanDisk and Toshiba announced plans to invest a total of $8.2 billion in building new manufacturing facilities.

Flash memory is expected to scale well past 2010, with high density products on the way. Samsung indicated that 64GB memory cards are already in sight and larger capacities are just over the horizon. Consumer multimedia products aren't the only devices using flash memory however -- Intel is gearing up to introduce a new desktop platform called Robson next year that will utilize flash memory to store parts or all of an operating system to boost performance.




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