CeRAM’s extreme temperature capability tipped as route to market
Cerfe Labs Inc. (Austin, Texas), a startup formed to commercialize a non-volatile memory called CeRAM, is pursuing extreme temperature capability as a way to gain market traction.
The company was formed in 2020 by some of the leaders of ARM’s research community to work on correlated electron random access memory (CeRAM) and ferroelectric memory.
CeRAM is based on metal-to-insulator state transitions, and their reversal, in transition metal oxides such as nickel oxide. The technology is believed to be fundamentally different to other emerging non-volatile technologies, such as filamentary Resistive RAM (ReRAM) and phase-change memory (PCM) although obtaining the proof of correlated electron activity and band-gap changes at the microscopic scale has been difficult.
Greg Yeric, CTO and co-founder at Cerfe Labs, told eeNews Europe: “We have CeRAM switching demonstrated from 0.88K to 300 degrees C. And the two resistive states are stable up to 500 degrees C retention bake for 110 hours.” He added: “There are some unmet very niche needs at the extreme ends of this operating window that we hope to leverage to continue to fund the development of the technology through toward a general-purpose memory.”
Therefore CeRAM as a general-purpose non-volatile memory is still the long-term goal for Cerfe Labs but in the near-term Yeric is looking to some low-volume, high-value applications to drive CeRAM’s development and scaling.
“We just converted a US Department of Energy Phase I SBIR to a Phase II, on the cryogenic side in order to examine this memory as an in-the-refrigerator interface memory for quantum computers,” Yeric said. “I personally think there is a lot more opportunity on the high-temperature side of things, but real traction there is to be decided,” he added.
University of Texas at Dallas
Yeric said that characterization work being performed at the University of Texas in Dallas in the Material Science department is showing CeRAM has considerably greater than 10-year life times and exceptional immunity to radiation as well as the extreme temperature capability. The same CeRAM devices can operate at both ends of the scale without modification, he said.
Other plans for Cerfe Labs include the manufacture of prototype CeRAM integrated on commercial CMOS at the IMEC research institute and scaling of CeRAM to 20nm at the University of Texas in Dallas. The study of hafnium oxide as a CeRAM material is expected to happen at both locations. The University of Colorado at Boulder is a location for continued research into cryogenic applications.
With the recent demise of Intel’s Optane memory (see Intel’s Optane memory business lost more than $500 million in 2020), which was based on material phase change within chalcogenide glass, the prospects for any and all of the so-called emerging non-volatile memories – ReRAM, MRAM, PCM and CeRAM – have been put under the spotlight. Intel tried to buy critical mass for its form of PCM as a NAND flash replacement in solid-state drives, but at great cost and without success.
Yeric said CeRAM needs to find an unmet niche market for which it is the most suitable memory, as a stepping stone to volume manufacturing and the opportunity to attack other embedded markets.
Related links and articles:
CeRAM paper broadens material scope, highlights role of carbon
Intel’s Optane memory business lost more than $500 million in 2020
ARM spin-off to develop CeRAM memory
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