Samsung soups up memory with phase change material

Korean handset vendor Samsung, currently trailing Nokia in terms of global market share, has promised to improve the performance of mobile handsets using a chalcogenide glass-based technology known as Phase Change Memory (PCM).

Samsung’s chipset boffins have unveiled a 512Mb multi chip package featuring PRAM (Phase Change RAM – Samsung’s flavour of PCM), which is due to be available for use in mobile handsets later this quarter.

According to the handset vendor, PRAM is expected to be widely embraced by 2011 as the successor to the NOR flash technology commonly used in consumer electronics today.

PRAM stores data via the phase change characteristics of its base material, an alloy of germanium, antimony and titanium, and provides three times faster data storage performance than NOR chips. Its simple cell structure also makes designing chips for handsets a faster and easier process, Samsung says.

Chalcogenide is the same material used in re-writable optical media such as DVD-RWs, but in PCM, the material’s electrical resistivity is manipulated, switching it between two states, crystalline and amorphous, which represent a binary 1 or 0. The material’s transition is temperature dependent but Samsung has brought the transition speed down to something approaching that of DRAM.

As a replacement for NOR, PRAM can more easily accommodate the growing demand for high-speed, high-density nonvolatile memory in mobile phones and other mobile applications such as MP3 players, personal multimedia players and navigational devices, Samsung said.

“Memories for portable consumer devices today are at a major turning point as mobile applications increasingly require more diverse memory technologies,“ said Dong-soo Jun, executive vice president, memory sales and marketing at Samsung. “The launch of our PRAM in an advanced MCP solution for the replacement of 40nm-class and finer geometry NOR meets this need head-on. Our PRAM MCP will not only enable handset designers to utilize conventional platforms, but expedite the introduction of LPDDR2 DRAM and next-generation PRAM technology as the leading-edge basis for high-performance solutions.”

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