A render by IBM of what a MRAM memory cell looks like.
Magnetoresistive Random Access Memory (MRAM) could be a replacement for flash memory a few years ahead in the future. The nonvolatile memory uses magnetic storage elements to store data instead of storing it as an electric charge like flash memory does.
The whole process revolves around two ferromagnetic plates sandwiched together with thin insulating layer between them which creates magnetic cells. One of the plates holds a permanent magnetic polarity while the other is changed by an external field.
The bits are then figured up by measuring the electrical resistance of the cells. If both cells have the same polarity, a low resistance is measured and the bit is read as a "0". If both cells have opposite polarities, then a high resistance is measured and the bit is read as a "1."
The major advantages that MRAM
has over flash memories is that its read and write times are significantly faster and it has a near limitless write cycle life. MRAM also will not deteriorate over time like flash memory does due to transistors wearing out over time in flash memories.
The big downside to MRAM right now is that it is currently available in capacities only up to the megabit range. A commercialised MRAM chip was released last year by Freescale Semiconductor, but it didn't really take the market by storm with a 4Mbit (yes, that's bit, not byte - Ed
) module costing around £15.
All of this is about to change though as IBM and TDK have launched a joint R&D team
to build their own high capacity MRAM chips.
If the joint team succeeds in developing higher capacity chips, then you can expect to find it among all sorts of consumer electronics. The uses for the memory are varied from instant-on desktop computers and printers that never lose their settings to buffer memory in a disk storage system.
"We are planning to work together for about four years to really get this to a level of maturity where we can demonstrate the technology
," said Bill Gallagher, the senior manager of exploratory non-volatile memory.
IBM and TDK are the only companies trying to push MRAM onto the market, though. Freescale semiconductor has been putting heavily into its R&D and even licensed out the technology to Honeywell for use in military and space applications.
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or in the comments section below.