A conglomeration of Japanese and US memory specialists has been created to work on bringing magnetoresistive random access memory (MRAM) to the mass production, targeting the burgeoning smartphone and tablet market.

MRAM, which uses changing magnetic polarity to store data, has long been proposed as an alternative to traditional volatile and non-volatile memory: unlike dynamic RAM (DRAM), MRAM doesn't require constant refresh cycles; while compared to NAND flash MRAM is faster and offers far greater longevity with near-limitless write cycles. Previously, IBM and TDK have partnered on the technology, while Toshiba has been working on a high-performance variant.

Now, Nikkei is reporting that a group of more than twenty semiconductor companies are joining forces to push MRAM - accounting, all told, for a large chunk of the global semiconductor market. Companies named include DRAM giant Micron, electronics behemoth Hitachi, and industry bigwigs Tokyo Electron, Shin-Etsu Chemical and Renesas Electronics.

These companies, it is claimed, are to send researchers to Japan's Tohoku University where, led by Professor Tetsuo Endoh, they will work to develop MRAM implementations suitable for mass production and inclusion into mainstream devices - concentrating first on the power-sensitive mobile market, where MRAM's ability to store data without a constant refresh cycle will prove extremely beneficial with a claimed one-third the power draw of DRAM.

Sadly, it will be a while before the technology reaches consumers. The team is to start work in February, and hopes to have the details of mass production down pat by mid-2017. Micron is expected to be the first of the group to start mass production, with a view to rolling the first commercial products off its lines in 2018.

Taken with rival companies' previous announcements, an estimated 90 per cent of the global semiconductor market is actively investigating commercialisation of MRAM technology.

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