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Micron starts shipping Phase Change Memory

Micron starts shipping Phase Change Memory

Micron's Phase Change Memory (PCM) part is the first to ship for commercial exploitation in quantity, and heralds a new era of high-speed non-volatile memory.

Micron has officially launched its first commercial Phase Change Memory (PCM) product, targeting the smartphone market with a two-chip system that combines both volatile and non-volatile memory.

Micron's PCM is based on glass doped with sulphur, selenium or tellurium to create a material known as chalcogenide glass. This material has a special property missing from normal, undoped glass: when heated, it changes phase and alters its electrical properties. Carefully controlled, these altered phases can be used to store data with up to four states per PCM cell.

The main advantages over traditional dynamic RAM (DRAM) are a reduced power draw and non-volatile storage. Unlike DRAM, PCM doesn't require a refresh cycle - meaning power can be completely removed from the chip without it losing its contents. This makes PCM closer to NAND flash memory than DRAM, but with significantly improved performance - theoretically providing the best of both DRAM and NAND flash technologies.

Built on a 45nm process, Micron's Air PCM packs a 1Gb PCM module into a integrated circuit alongside 512Mb of LPDDR2, providing both non-volatile and volatile storage in a single 1.8V WFBGA package. According to Micron's testing, the module boasts 400MB/s random read performance, code execution without error checking and correction (ECC) on the host processor, endurance of greater than 100,000 write cycles, and requires no erase cycle to alter bits stored in the non-volatile area - a significant performance booster over NAND flash.

Micron claims to be shipping the PCM parts to its customers now, initially targeting the lucrative mobile market with a product that promises to boost battery life and performance. Should the company's PCM parts prove successful in this field, we can expect to see it branching out - and, potentially, becoming the first to market with an affordable, commercially-viable alternative to NAND flash for solid-state storage devices.

Pricing for the parts has yet to be confirmed.

10 Comments

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Flibblebot 18th July 2012, 17:19 Quote
What's sulfur? ;-)

Am I understanding the figures right - that this works at about half the theoretical maximum of SATA3, with a similar lifespan of SSD, but with a slight performance increase when writing compared to SSD?

I'm guessing that the real downside at the moment is capacity - but could we start to see PCM replace NAND as the storage device of choice in the future?
Gareth Halfacree 18th July 2012, 18:07 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flibblebot
What's sulfur? ;-)
It's a stupid-wordprocessor-set-to-US-English, is what it is... Fixed, ta!
GeorgeStorm 18th July 2012, 18:13 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
It's a stupid-wordprocessor-set-to-US-English, is what it is... Fixed, ta!

Sort it out :P

Sounds interesting, wonder how long it will be before it'll be a potential replacement for current technologies for the average joe.
yougotkicked 19th July 2012, 01:14 Quote
interesting that they would choose the smart phone market as their testing grounds. I may be over-analyzing it, but I wonder if that isn't a move to disguise costs with the common practice of paying for high-end phones via long-term contracts.
fluxtatic 19th July 2012, 08:01 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by yougotkicked
interesting that they would choose the smart phone market as their testing grounds. I may be over-analyzing it, but I wonder if that isn't a move to disguise costs with the common practice of paying for high-end phones via long-term contracts.

Maybe both that and lifespan - most phones get ditched after the 2-year contract is up, so if the memory/storage is going to crap out after 3 years, it doesn't matter - it's already been living in the junk drawer for quite a while anyway.

Then again, I thought the subsidized phone thing was pretty much just the US. Is that disease infecting the rest of the world now, too?
l3v1ck 19th July 2012, 09:42 Quote
I agree with Fluxtatic. The short life cycle combined with the high profit margin on high end smartphones makes them a perfect testing ground.
Gareth Halfacree 19th July 2012, 12:21 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeStorm
Sort it out :P
Already done - I'd been using some templates from a US publisher (which were, naturally, in US English) and hadn't noticed that it had managed to flip LibreOffice's default across as well. I dunno, free software, eh? I've half a mind to ask for a full refund...
Isitari 19th July 2012, 12:52 Quote
Sorry but Sulfur spelling has changed now. I don't like it but can't do anything about it.

However, the IUPAC adopted the spelling sulfur in 1990, as did the Royal Society of Chemistry Nomenclature Committee in 1992.[43] The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority for England and Wales recommended its use in 2000,[44] and it now appears in GCSE exams.[45] The Oxford Dictionaries note that "In chemistry... the -f- spelling is now the standard form in all related words in the field in both British and US contexts."[46]

Quote from good old Wikipedia.

Only reason I know is because I have to teach my students the correct spelling for exams i.e. Sulfur.
Gareth Halfacree 19th July 2012, 13:39 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Isitari
Sorry but Sulfur spelling has changed now. I don't like it but can't do anything about it. [snip citations and explanations]
That I did not know. I wonder why - I mean, if the point was to make it the same across the board, why do we still have aluminium/aluminum?
Bakes 21st July 2012, 04:39 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
Quote:
Originally Posted by Isitari
Sorry but Sulfur spelling has changed now. I don't like it but can't do anything about it. [snip citations and explanations]
That I did not know. I wonder why - I mean, if the point was to make it the same across the board, why do we still have aluminium/aluminum?

I was under the impression that aluminium was designated as the proper word (like sulfur) - but that the Americans didn't listen so they eventually caved and added aluminum as an acceptable substitute?

That could just be the standard plucky brit chemistry urban legend...
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