Intel and Numonyx announce memory breakthrough

chip close up

Intel and its research partner Numonyx have announced that they have made a significant breakthrough in developing a new class of memory chip that should enable smaller devices with greater memory capacity than ever before.

The new memory is based on phase change technology and in the lab the researchers have managed to create a 64Mb test chip with multiple layers stacked on top of each other on a single die, which is key to delivering greater storage capacities.

Al Fazio, Intel fellow for memory technology and development, said in a phone briefing that the technology can scale down to very small dimensions, features low latency and high bandwidth, but could be produced at low cost. It combines the best of current memory technologies such as NOR and NAND and could eventually find its way in into low cost SSDs that offer higher capacities and greater performance.

Greg Atwood, senior technology fellow at Numonyx said that it could therefore replace other memory types.

"We see it collapsing a lot of the memory types into one technology type," he said. "We see it as an important milestone and has the potential to bring future performance gains to future computer platforms."

However, he was also clear that there were no timescales attached to the announcement. "Product timing is not confirmed - research provides both opportunities and challenges," he said.

Atwood also revealed that it could lead to a new approach to memory design on products. "People are [also] talking about collapsing storage and memory into one", he said.

Fazio revealed that Intel has been working on the technology with Numonyx since the early part of the decade since it realised that current memory techniques would have scaling issues.

Full details of the breakthrough will be presented at the 2009 International Electron Devices Meeting in Baltimore on 9 December, in a paper entitled, "A Stackable Cross Point Phase Change Memory."

Benny Har-Even

Benny Har-Even is a twenty-year stalwart of technology journalism who is passionate about all areas of the industry, but telecoms and mobile and home entertainment are among his chief interests. He has written for many of the leading tech publications in the UK, such as PC Pro and Wired, and previously held the position of technology editor at ITPro before regularly contributing as a freelancer.

Known affectionately as a ‘geek’ to his friends, his passion has seen him land opportunities to speak about technology on BBC television broadcasts, as well as a number of speaking engagements at industry events.