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Memory and Storage

U.S., Japanese Companies Reportedly Form Alliance Around STT-MRAM

25 November 2013

More than 20 Japanese and U.S. companies are forming an alliance to develop technology for mass production of non-volatile magnetoresistive random access memory (MRAM) chips, according to a Nikkei report.

Those involved include chip companies Micron Technology and Renesas Electronics; semiconductor equipment firm Tokyo Electron Ltd., wafer supplier Shin-Etsu Chemical, and electronics systems company Hitachi, the report said, without referencing sources. A spokesperson for Micron denied that the company is involved in the alliance.

The alliance will focus on bringing spin-torque transfer MRAM (STT-MRAM) technology to market, which is the subject of research at Tohoku University under Professor Tetsuo Endoh. Participating companies will send researchers to work there starting in February 2014, with a view to getting the work into production within three years, the report said. There is also the aim of getting other U.S and European companies involved.

The work appears to be based on an established collaboration between Tokyo Electron and Professor Endoh's group at Tohoku University. In 2012, Tokyo Electron said it had been working with Professor Endoh on STT-MRAM development since 2011.

MRAM has a similar density similar to DRAM with the advantage of retaining saved data without the need for power. The STT-MRAM variant requires less write current than conventional or toggle MRAM. However, some companies are already in the market—notably Everspin Technologies Inc. (Chandler, Arizona). Everspin recently announced that its 64-Mbit ST-MRAM has been designed into a solid-state drive from Buffalo Memories.

The strength of the U.S.-Japan bond within the alliance already appears to be strong with Micron having recently acquired Japanese chip company Elpida Memory Inc. and Tokyo Electron in the process of being acquired by Applied Materials Inc. (Santa Clara, Calif.).

All the major memory chip companies—including Samsung, SK Hynix and Toshiba—are working on MRAM research.

A spokesperson for Micron denied that the company is part of the alliance. "Micron has multiple emerging memory programs currently going on and MRAM is one of them. Micron has a small relationship with Tohuku University but is not currently part of this alliance," the spokesperson said in an email exchange.

Micron and Renesas were approach for a comment on the MRAM Alliance but had not replied by the time this article was posted.

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