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IMEC, Nantero team on carbon nanotube memory

Posted: 05 Nov 2012     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:carbon  nanotube  memory 

IMEC collaborates with Nantero Inc. to make carbon nanotube non-volatile memories with critical dimensions of less than 20nm.

Although IMEC has an active programme researching metal-oxide based resistive RAM, the organisation expressed the hope that following successful research carbon nanotube (CNT) memory could be deployed as a replacement for DRAM.

Nantero (Woburn, Mass.) has been developing carbon nanotube (CNT) memory, which it calls NRAM, since 2000. The company seemed to make significant progress in the middle part of the decade. On its website the company claims that NRAM will be considerably faster and denser than DRAM, have substantially lower power consumption than DRAM or flash, and be as portable as flash memory.

Individual CNTs are about a nanometre in diameter and can be up to a millimetre long. However, Nantero forms a non-woven matrix of CNTs that are deposited onto a substrate that contains an underlying cell select device and array lines.

In 2006 the company announced it had fabricated and successfully tested a 22nm memory switch based on mat-like composition of CNTs laid across and etched trench. In this configuration the membrane-like matrix of CNTs displays a bi-modal stability with different resistance states.

IMEC has agreed to support Nantero in the manufacture, test and characterisation of NRAM arrays with a focus on high-density next-generation memories.

"After review of the progress to date by Nantero and its manufacturing partners, we decided that this CNT-based non-volatile memory has multiple very attractive characteristics for next-generation highly scaled memory," said Luc Van den hove, CEO of IMEC, in a statement. "By taking a leadership position in this area of development, in partnership with Nantero, we will be able to bring substantial benefit to our member companies."

Nantero has already fabricated high-yielding 4Mbit arrays of NRAM in CMOS production environments, with several important performance advantages: write speed has been shown to be as fast as 3ns; endurance is expected to be unlimited and has been tested so far to over 10^12 cycles, with low operating power and superior high temperature retention, according to IMEC.

"Together, Nantero and IMEC can develop and demonstrate this form of memory for future applications below 20-nm such as terabit-scale memory arrays and ultra-fast gigabit-scale non-volatile cache memories," said Jo de Boeck, CTO of IMEC. "NRAM holds clear promise in aggressively scaled non-volatile memory applications and, if we can demonstrate the suitable endurance and speed specifications, NRAM could even provide an alternative for DRAM that is facing scaling limitations beyond 18nm."

Greg Schmergel, Nantero's co-founder and CEO, said: "Nantero is already working with world-leading manufacturers, and working with IMEC will enable these efforts to bring carbon nanotube memory to market to move even faster."

Nantero was included in the first three iterations of the Silicon 60 list of emerging technology start-ups published in 2004 and 2005. The company has raised more than Rs.168.48 crore ($31 million) in three rounds of funding and is backed by Globespan Capital Partners, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Charles River Ventures and Stata Venture Partners.

- Peter Clarke
  EE Times

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