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ADVANCED SOLID-STATE MEMORY SYSTEMS AND PRODUCTS: EMERGING NON-VOLATILE MEMORY TECHNOLOGIES, INDUSTRY TRENDS AND MARKET ANALYSIS
Publish Date: Apr 2011,   Pages: 146,   Report Code: ET-114
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The ideal semiconductor memory for future silicon integrated circuits unifies the qualities of the different memory technologies of today. It should have the high speed of static random access memory (SRAM), the non-volatility of flash, and the density of dynamic random access memory (DRAM). In addition, it should be low in cost and scalable to nanometer dimensions. Flash memories are currently used as non-volatile memory in stand-alone and embedded chips with great commercial success. However, flash does not qualify as an ideal memory, owing to its relatively long programming time (>10 µs) and limited cycle endurance. Furthermore, the high programming voltages (>10 V) complicate scaling down to nanometer cell sizes.

 

Today’s dominant solid-state memory technologies – SRAM, DRAM, and flash – have been around for a long time, with Flash the youngest, at 23 years. Their longevity can be explained in part by mutually beneficial differentiation. Each technology does a single thing very well, but many systems need all three memory types to deliver overall good performance at reasonable cost. However, the gain from differentiation comes at the cost of increased system and fabrication complexity, particularly in so-called embedded applications, where an entire electronic system is implemented on a single chip, with SRAM, DRAM and flash often used side by side.

 

All three technologies have advantages and disadvantages. SRAM has excellent read and write speeds, integrates readily into the process technology of embedded applications, and requires little power for data retention. However, its large cell size (a typical memory bit requires six transistors) makes it impractical for embedded applications that require a lot of memory.  Embedded SRAM is used for cache memory in microprocessors, where high speed is more important than large amounts of memory.

 

DRAM uses a single transistor and a storage capacitor per cell, and thus it provides a denser architecture than SRAM, at the expense of increased embedded process complexity. Because the stored charge tends to leak out of the capacitor, DRAM requires constant power to refresh its bit state every few milliseconds. Because of its high power consumption, large amounts of DRAM are impractical for portable electronics with limited battery life.

 

In contrast to static and dynamic RAM, flash memory offers nonvolatile data storage; that is, its information is not lost when the power is turned off. Non-volatility is highly desirable in portable electronics, because nonvolatile data retention does not consume any battery power. Flash also has high density and moderately fast read access time, but its write mode is too slow and its write endurance far too limited for many applications. In addition, embedded flash needs its own high-voltage drivers, complicating the design and manufacturing process.

 

For some time, researchers have tried to devise non-volatile alternatives to flash. The goal is a "universal memory" that combines the best attributes of SRAM, DRAM, and flash. Such a memory would eliminate the need for multiple memories in many applications, would improve system performance and reliability by avoiding data transfer between multiple memories, and would reduce overall system cost

 

study goal and objectives

 

The main reason for growing commitments to emerging non-volatile random access memory (NVRAM) is that scaling has now become a serious issue for the memory industry. Leakage is a major hurdle at 65nm and beyond. Three-dimensional structures offer one solution, but there is a limit on how far one can go in this technology. Similarly, SRAM makers have largely abandoned large 6T cells in portable devices in favor of 1T pseudo-SRAM (PSRAM). But again, this is only a holding action until something better comes along. Flash has a serious architectural scaling problem that seems likely to become critical well below 90nm. Such problems are making both semiconductor firms and OEMs take emerging memories much more seriously. Not only are many of these new technologies inherently more scalable, but also they seem well suited to the next generation of mobile computing and communications that will demand high capacity memories capable of storing and rapidly accessing video and large databases without overburdening battery power sources. In light of such issues, emerging memory solutions seem to be a key technology.

 

Ferroelectric RAM (FERAM or F-RAM), magnetic RAM (MRAM), and other next-generation technologies are all attempts to develop the "perfect" memory – one that is non-volatile and whose bits can be fully altered, with ultra-fast read and write rates and an infinite number of rewrite cycles. None of them succeeds in all areas, but all of them make key advancements in at least some of these important memory characteristics.

 

This study has identified and focused on seven emerging non-volatile memory technologies such as FERAM, phase change random access memory (PCM, PC-RAM, PRAM, OUM), magneto-resistive RAM (MRAM, STT RAM, Race Track Memory), resistance switching RAM (RRAM, ReRAM, CB-RAM, PMC-RAM, Nanobridge RAM CMOx, memistors), zero capacitor (ZRAM), quantum dot RAM and polymer printed memory.

 

This study focuses on emerging non-volatile random access memory products, providing market data about the size and growth of the application segments and new developments, including a detailed patent analysis, company profiles and industry trends. Another goal of this report is to provide a detailed and comprehensive multi-client study of the market in North America, Europe, Japan, China, India, Korea and the rest of the world (ROW) for potential future emerging non-volatile random access memory products and business opportunities.

 

The objectives include thorough coverage of the underlying economic issues driving the current solid-state memory business, as well as assessments of new, advanced emerging non-volatile random access memory products that companies are developing. Another important objective is to provide realistic market data and forecasts for emerging memory products. This study provides the most thorough and up-to-date assessment that can be found anywhere on the subject. It also provides extensive quantification of the many important facets of market developments in emerging non-volatile random access memory products in the world.  This, in turn, contributes to the determination of what kinds of strategic responses companies might adopt in order to compete in this dynamic market.

 

REASONS FOR DOING THE STUDY

 

Memory design has seen a number of trends over the years.  Process technology has steadily reduced its minimum feature size.  A wide variety of techniques has been developed to improve packing-density.  A myriad of technology/circuit/system optimizations have been created to improve performance and reduce power dissipation. In addition, emerging technologies such as three-dimensional (3D) chip stacking and new physical memory mechanisms are pushing the memory.

 

Recent market trends have indicated that commercialized or near-commercialized circuits are optimized across speed, density, power efficiency and manufacturability. Flash memory is not suited to all applications, having its own problems with random access time, bit alterability, and write cycling. With the increasing need to lower power consumption with zero-power standby systems, observers are predicting that the time has come for alternative technologies to capture at least some share in specific markets such as automotive smart airbags, high-end mobile phones, and RFID tags. An embedded non-volatile memory with superior performance to flash could see widespread adoption in system-on-chip (SoC) applications such as smart cards and microcontrollers.

 

These new emerging non-volatile random access memory products address the urgent need in some specific and small-form devices.  Therefore, iRAP felt a need to do a detailed technology update and market analysis in this industry.

 

Contributions of the study

 

This study is intended to benefit existing and future manufacturers of solid-state memories who seek to expand revenues and market opportunities by moving into new technologies such as emerging non-volatile random access memory products which are positioned to become a preferred solution for many applications, such as automotive (e.g., smart airbags), industrial automation, transportation, harsh operating environments and extreme temperature range, instrumentation, medical equipment, industrial microcontrollers,  radio frequency identification (RFID), electronic metering and radiation-hardened  applications in consumer, military and aerospace markets.

 

The study also provides the most complete account currently available in a multi-client format of emerging non-volatile random access memory products growth in North America, Europe, Japan, China, and the rest of the world.  This report provides the most thorough and up-to-date assessment that can be found anywhere on the subject. The study also provides an extensive quantification of the many important facets of market developments in emerging markets for new generation non-volatile random access memory products, especially in countries such as China

 

SCOPE AND FORMAT

 

The market data contained in this report quantify opportunities for emerging non-volatile random access memory products. In addition to product types, the report also covers many issues concerning the merits and future prospects of the emerging non-volatile random access memory products business, including corporate strategies, information technologies and the means for providing these highly advanced products and service offerings. It also covers in detail the economic and technological issues regarded by many as critical to the industry’s current state of change. The report provides a review of the emerging non-volatile random access memory products industry and its structure, as well as the many companies involved in providing these products. The competitive positions of the main market players and the strategic options they face are also discussed, along with such competitive factors as marketing, distribution and operations.

 

TO WHOM THE STUDY CATERS

 

The study will benefit existing manufacturers of solid-state memory who seek to expand revenues and market opportunities by growing into the new technology of emerging non-volatile random access memory products, which are now positioned to become a preferred solution for many types of RFID tags, smart cards, high-end mobile phones, smart automotive airbags, etc.

 

Audiences for this study include marketing executives, business unit managers and other decision makers in solid-state memory companies themselves, as well as in companies peripheral to this business.

 

REPORT SUMMARY

 

Solid-state memories read and write data with great speed, enabling swift processing. High-performance versions, such as static and dynamic random access memory (SRAM and DRAM, respectively), use the electronic state of transistors and capacitors to store data bits. These chips lose their data, however, when the computer powers down – or crashes. Currently, solid-state memories constitute a market of over $50 billion, while the non-volatile segment is much smaller.

 

A few computers use non-volatile chips, which retain data when the power is off, as a solid-state drive in place of a hard disc drive (HDD). The now ubiquitous smart cell phones and other handheld devices also use non-volatile memory, but there is a trade-off between cost and performance. The cheapest non-volatile memory is flash memory, which, among other uses, is the basis of the little flash drives that people have hanging from their key rings. Flash memory, however, is slow and unreliable in comparison with other memory chips. Each time the high-voltage pulse (the “flash” of the name) writes a memory cell, the cell is damaged; it becomes unusable after only perhaps 10,000 writing operations. Nevertheless, because of its low cost, flash memory has become a dominant memory technology, particularly for applications in which the data will not be changed very often.

 

Industry estimates showed the DRAM market to be as much as $40 billion in 2010. However, the computing world is crying out for a memory chip with high data density that is also cheap, fast, reliable and non-volatile. With such a memory, computing devices would become much simpler and smaller, more reliable, faster and less energy consuming. Research groups around the world are investigating several approaches to meet this demand, including systems based on emerging non-volatile random access memory products.

 

Besides computers, today’s portable electronics have become computationally intensive devices as the user interface has migrated to a fully multimedia experience. To provide the performance required for these applications, the portable electronics designer uses multiple types of memories: a medium-speed random access memory for continuously changing data, a high-speed memory for caching instructions to the CPU, and a slower, non-volatile memory for long-term information storage when the power is removed. Combining all of these memory types into a single memory has been a long-standing goal of the semiconductor industry.

 

It is highly likely that different alternatives are needed for different application segments of the markets, and a good match has to be found between solid-state memory product requirements and technology capabilities.

 

Seven emerging non-volatile memory technologies such as ferromagnetic RAM (FeRAM or F-RAM),  phase change random access memory (PCM, PC-RAM, PRAM, OUM), magneto-resistive RAM (MRAM, STT RAM, race track memory), resistance switching RAM (RRAM, ReRAM, CB-RAM, PMC-RAM, nano-bridge RAM CMOx, memistors), zero capacitor (ZRAM), quantum dot RAM and polymer printed memory are poised as possible candidate to become the successor of flash memory.  This is thanks to the improved performance in direct write, bit granularity, better endurance, read access time and write throughput.

 

 

Major findings of this report are:

 

·        The 2010 global market for emerging non-volatile random access memory products was projected to have reached $115 million. This market will increase to $1,590 million by 2015 showing an average annual growth rate of 69% per year from 2010 to 2015.

 

·        Of the six major regions surveyed for the period, North America captured about 42% of the market in 2010, followed by Europe at 36%, and the rest of the world (ROW) with 22%, dominated by Japan, Korea and China.

 

·        The market for emerging non-volatile random access memory used as an embedded system on chip SOC cards in 2010 will be highest with more 50% of the market. This will be followed by distant market share for RFID tags used in goods which are transported by high-speed detection conveyors, smart airbags used in automobiles, radiation-hardened memory in aerospace and nuclear installations, printed memory  platforms (such as smart cards, games, sensors, display, storage-class memory network) and high end smart mobile phones.

 

·        Commercial uses of these new breeds of NV-RAM have been very slow to appear because of the rapid reduction of per-bit costs of conventional flash memory technologies already in the market. However, these new technologies are sure to capture some specific markets for lower power or zero stand-by system implementation as “green” technology grows.

 

·        Among the seven emerging non-volatile random access memory  technologies covered in this report, in 2010 the potential market for zero capacitor (ZRAM)  is      highest. The polymer printed memory market in 2010 will be next highest, followed by ferromagnetic RAM as a distant third.

 

·        In 2015, phase change memory (PCM, PC-RAM, PRAM, OUM) will have the highest market share. FeRAM will be next highest, followed by zero capacitor RAM (ZRAM).

 

·        MRAM promises a high capacity, next-generation memory that can replace SRAM/flash combos and battery-backed up RAM as well as supplying improved non-volatile memory solutions for high-end mobile products. MRAM is already in the sampling stage.

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