Cross Bar Resistive RAM

Posted by Tushar Bedekar
santa Clara-based startup Crossbar has just announced a potentially game-changing new memory chip that itclaims has the potential to replace standard flash memory in a number of applications.


Santa Clara-based startup Crossbar has just announced a potentially game-changing new memory chip that itclaims has the potential to replace standard flash memory in a number of applications.

Crossbar calls its new technology Resistive RAM, and says that it has the ability to store up to a terabyte of data onto a single chip that comes smaller than the size of a postage stamp. Not only this, but it can access that data twenty times faster than the current best of breed flash memory available, a feature that could easily disrupt a market said to be worth some $60 billion a year.

With flash memory being used in just about every ‘smart’ device these days – from iPhones to cameras to tablets – Crossbar believes that its Resistive RAM tech can lead to a fresh wave of innocation in consumer, mobile, enterprise and industrial devices. Importantly, the company isn’t the only one to share that belief – it’s also secured backing to the tune of $25 million from investors including Artiman Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Northern Light Venture Capital.

These are bold claims, but how can it be possible? Crossbar says that the key to Resistive RAM is its simple electrical structure, which consists of just three-layers of silicon-based material, including top and bottom electrodes, and a switching medium. The idea is that the voltage flowing across the electrodes creates a filament where the data can be stored. This filament is tiny – just 10nm – and can adjust to shrinking feature sizes. The company claims that its technology will provide ten years of retention and a lifetime of around 10,000 write cycles per cell.

You might be thinking that 10,000 write cycles is nothing special, but this is around ten times better thancurrent flash memory. Moreover, Crossbar’s chips use twenty times less power than regular flash when performing storage functions, which means that the battery life of devices could potentially be extended to weeks or even months. But by far and away the biggest advantage of Resistive RAM is its write speed – at twenty times faster than regular flash, dozens of issues that cause headaches for flash controllers would be eliminated.

Of course, Crossbar’s chips aren’t the only Resistive RAM technology hoping to disrupt the market. Various other concepts exist that promise faster write speeds and greater endurance, however these are not easy to manufacture. But this is precisely why Crossbar’s technology has such great potential – it can be manufactured simply with existing technologies and materials, something that bodes well for its ability to come to the market at a competitive price.

It’ll be a while for Resistive RAM to get off the ground – Crossbar says that consumer products using ReRAM probably won’t appear until 2016 at the earliest, but when they do the dream of carrying around a 1TB mobilephone in your pocket could soon become a reality.
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