As important as Flash memory is to a multitude of electronic product designs, it doesn't fit every application. Applications calling for high speed or very high numbers of write cycles sometime require alternatives or companions to Flash.
Here, we present three such alternatives: Freescale Semiconductor's highly publicized magnetoresistive random access memory (MRAM); Simtek Corp.'s non-volatile static RAM (SRAM) and Ramtron International Corp.'s ferroelectric RAM (FRAM). All three, however, have one feature in common — they save critical data during situations in which it might otherwise be lost.
“In fly-by-wire planes, it's nice to have your flaps come back to where they are supposed to be after a lightning strike,” says Grant Hulse, vice president of marketing for Simtek Corp. “In security, it's nice to know where the camera was pointing when the power went out.”
Each of the three products shown here have specific advantages relating to speed or power, in applications ranging from military and industrial to medical, automotive and computing. Take a look and see which fits your project.
Freescale's 4-Mbit MRAM
Freescale Semiconductor's new 4-Mbit magnetoresistive random access memory uses magnetic polarization, rather than electric charge, to store bits of information. It reportedly offers a multitude of practical advantages over today's memory schemes, including the ability to retain data when turned off; reduce system power; provide better performance in write speed and endurance and lower energy consumption during the write cycle; and exceptional reliability. Designated the MR2A16A, the new non-volatile memory has the ability to replace disk drives in some applications. It could serve as an adjunct to, or a replacement for, SRAM and Flash in some applications. Moreover, its reliability is considered to be appealing for the aerospace and military markets.
Simtek's Non-Volatile SRAM
Simtek's new non-volatile 4-Mbit SRAM products, which rolled out on Oct. 1, are said to deliver 40 percent better access times, four to eight times higher densities and increased system performance over their predecessors. Known as the Simtek STK14EC8 and STK14EC16, the devices deliver fast-access SRAM at speed grades of 15, 25 and 45 nsec, while offering transparent non-volatile backup during power disruptions. The new memories combine Simtek's expertise in nvSRAM with Cypress Semiconductor's SONOS fabrication technology.
Ramtron FRAM Memory
Ramtron's FM22L16 is said to be the semiconductor industry's first 4-Mbit FRAM memory. It combines Texas Instruments' proven 130 nm process with Ramtron's advanced FRAM cell architecture. For designers, it combines the fast access and low power qualities of volatile DRAM with the ability to retain data without power. It reportedly consumes lower power than MRAM and is already commercially proven in automotive, metering, industrial and computing applications.
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