ULTRARAM aims to replace 3D NAND memory with a resource
Hardware

ULTRARAM aims to replace 3D NAND memory with a resource of 10 million cycles and data retention of up to 1000 years

At the Flash Memory Summit 2023 in August, not only the state-of-the-art 321-layer 3D NAND flash from SK hynix was awarded. Also experts awards given future-proof ULTRARAM memory that combines the speed of RAM and the non-volatility of flash memory. The commercial production company only launched earlier this year and the FMS 23 Summit was indeed a debut for it.

    Image Credit: ULTRARAM

Image Credit: Quinas Technology

The ULTRARAM memory is young in every respect. Its structure was invented by scientists from the British universities of Lancaster and Warwick. An article about the new memory was published in the magazine Nature in 2019. In 2022 the developers created memory samples and in January of this year they announced the creation of Quinas Technology to promote it.

A special feature of ULTRARAM is the highest resistance to wear and charge loss. The developers promise at least 10 million rewrite cycles and charge retention for 1000 years. There is a possibility to close the lid of the laptop during the game and continue after 1000 years by lifting it again. The game will continue from the moment it was stopped by the laptop lid’s closing sensors.

The design and the materials used by ULTRARAM promise high stability and ultra-long charge retention, and it is not silicon. The memory cell and the electron-rich layer are separated by three barriers made of indium arsenide and aluminum antimonide (InAs/AlSb). The insulation is so good that charge loss can be neglected. But how do electrons get into a cell?

There is a phenomenon that is as well studied and applied in electronics as the tunnel effect. If the electrons are given a certain energy, which the inventors call resonant, they manage to overcome the barriers and get into the cell. You can remove them from there under similar conditions (delete or overwrite the cell). You never actually leave it alone. The charge is stored in the cell without the need to power it like flash memory does. At the same time, the speed characteristics of ULTRARAM are approaching the speed of RAM.

For example, the first ULTRARAM samples showed a switching speed of less than 10 ms at an erase voltage of 2.5 V, which is considered the best result among the promising types of non-volatile memory. In theory, performance promises to be within 10 ns.

developer appraises the prospects soberly ULTRARAM doesn’t think it will “blow up” the memory market. But for a number of areas it can be very, very popular. For example, in the case of peripheral Internet devices whose performance limitations force us to seek compromises between memory size, performance and consumption. Such “non-switching RAM” will be in demand both in servers and in the field of creating an artificial brain in which data will be stored and processed in one place.

Negotiations with manufacturers are already underway, developers say. ULTRARAM production could start sooner than we imagined.

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Dylan Harris

Dylan Harris is fascinated by tests and reviews of computer hardware.

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