FeTRAM on track to low energy flash memory

A team of researchers has given a glimpse of what could be a high speed and low power memory type based on ferroelectrics, FeTRAM.

Researchers at Purdue University say they are in the early developmental stage of non-volatile FeTRAM memory that, in theory, will use 99 percent less power than conventional flash memory.

The team also reckons that it will leave high speed SRAM in the dust when it is fully developed.

There is no need to get too carried away just yet, as the developments are firmly in the experimental stage.  For instance, at this stage of development the current incarnation draws more power than a commercially available flash memory product.  But the team is confident that this is a matter of scaling, and believes that its method of incorporating silicon nanowires along with a ferroelectric polymer will work.

Moving any developments out of the lab is fraught with difficulties, but researchers expect that FeTRAM will work well with current CMOS production processes.

The device is similar to the commercially available FeRAM, though it is able to provide nondestructive readouts.  FeRAM, used in industrial and automotive applications, uses a ferroelectric capacitor, but as FeTRAM uses a ferroelectric transistor it allows information to be read without losing it.

This works by combining silicon nanowires with a ferroelectric polymer, which switches polarity to a 0 or 1 when a charge is applied, creating a ferroelectric transistor.  FeTRAM devices will be able to fulfill the basic requirements of computer memory of writing, reading and storing information.

Whether the team will be able to repeat some impressive theoretical claims will take time to become clear, but the device is patent pending and scientists will be working to scale down the technology.

Another research team over at the University of California, Berkeley has been looking into CMOS process technology using ferroelectric materials to try to push chip technology past the 7 nanometre process.