Updated: Crossbar signs SMIC as embedded ReRAM partner

March 11, 2016 // By Peter Clarke
Crossbar cross-section
Resistive RAM (ReRAM) developer Crossbar has announced a partnership with Chinese foundry SMIC that will see its non-volatile memory available as an embedded memory option on SMIC's 40nm CMOS process.

Crossbar Inc. (Santa Clara, Calif.) was formed in 2010 to commercialize research led by Professor Wei Lu at the University of Michigan. Professor Lu cofounded the company and serves as its chief scientific officer. Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (Shanghai, China) is described as "one of Crossbar's first foundry partners," although it is the first to be publicly acknowledged.

The companies will now partner on integrating non-volatile Crossbar ReRAM within MCUs and SoCs within the Internet of Things, wearable and tablet computers and other consumer, industrial and automotive markets. ReRAM is expected to exhibit lower power consumption and superior performance to flash memory and also the ability to scale far below 40nm, something flash memory is not expected to do.

However, ReRAMs can be based on many different material systems and have proved difficult to bring to market. The technology has been pursued as a follow-on to flash and has been under research at large companies and at many startups for many years. When Crossbar first went public about its technology in 2013 CEO and co-founder George Minassian predicted embedded Crossbar memory in the market in 2015 and stand-alone multilayer versions of the technology about a year after that (see ReRAM Startup Bets on Silver ).

Crossbar's memory is based on silver top electrode over amorphous silicon over a polysilicon bottom electrode. The principle of operation is that a writing voltage causes silver ions to migrate through the silicon to form a filament connects the top and bottom electrodes. A reverse voltage causes the ions to move and break the connection. Lower voltages can be used to "read" the connection as a 1 or 0.

Crossbar has already demonstrated the ability to integrate a memory array above the access control circuitry and has plans to go to multilayer memory for high capacity 3D standalone memories.

"Crossbar is ready for engagement now with the RRAM PDK and in-house design services to support