Crossbar Unveils Ultrafast RRAM
August 6, 2013

Crossbar Unveils RRAM Non-Volatile Memory Technology

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Startup company Crossbar emerged from stealth mode on Monday to announce a first of its kind memory chip it says will replace flash memory and enable a surge of innovation for consumer, enterprise, mobile and industrial applications.

Crossbar chief executive George Minassian said the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company will make and license its version of resistive random-access memory (RRAM), which will be smaller, faster and more power-efficient than NAND flash and RAM.

The memory's physical and power qualities make it a suitable replacement for storage in smartphones, tablets, PCs and servers, he said.

The company claims its RRAM will deliver 20 times faster write performance, 20 times less power consumption and 10 times more durability than NAND flash.

Crossbar's memory chips will be stacked, and a 1 terabyte module will be about half the size of a NAND flash module with similar storage, Minassian said.

This means devices that use Crossbar's chips would have faster storage, better playback and smoother backup and archiving, he said. RRAM could also improve the functionality of wearable computers such as Google Glass, he said.

Minassian did not disclose any pricing details for the 1TB RRAM module, but said it would be less expensive than NAND flash because RRAM is less expensive to manufacture.

However, depending on demand, it could still be a few years before the memory chips show up in products, Minassian said.

"It's a matter of what company appears at what time," Minassian told Agam Shah of IDG News Service.

Crossbar's technology differs from NAND flash and RAM in that it does not use transistors or trap a charge, but relies instead on a layered approach to store data.

A RRAM cell has three layers - a top layer with a metallic electrode, a center layer with a switch that helps determine whether the cell is storing a 1 or a 0, and a lower layer with a nonmetallic electrode. The top layer passes metal ions into the switching media and into the lower layer, which creates a filament to keep the electrodes connected - something Minassian calls a "short wire." Applying a negative charge breaks the wire, leaving a gap between the electrodes, eliminating resistance and changing the status of the memory cell.

"This is not a gate you use in standard NAND and NOR. This is resistive, which is where RRAM comes from," Minassian told Shah.

RRAM uses existing material and can be made in factories, and prototypes are already being made in factories of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Minassian said.

Since Crossbar's RRAM doesn't contain transistors, it is simple to make as chips become smaller, he added.

"What is unique about this is that we have been able to get to manufacturing in just three years," Minassian said in an interview with VentureBeat. "It is a technology that is easy to manufacture."

Although replacing any existing technology is challenging, Minassian is optimistic Crossbar is up to the task.

"Today's non-volatile memory technologies are running out of steam, hitting significant barriers as they scale to smaller manufacturing processes," Minassian told VentureBeat's Dean Takahashi. "With our working Crossbar array, we have achieved all the major technical milestones that prove our RRAM technology is easy to manufacture and ready for commercialization. It's a watershed moment for the non-volatile memory industry."

Crossbar, which has just 20 employees, said it plans to create and sell its own chips, and will also license its technology to system-on-a-chip vendors that would combine RRAM with other components on the same chip.

The company said it has filed 100 patents, with 30 already issued.

The three-year-old startup has secured $25 million in funding from venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Artiman Ventures and Northern Light Venture Capital.