Memory Startups To Watch

3D memory, FeFETs and MRAM/ReRAM IP are in the works.

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The next-generation memories are finally ramping up after years’ of delays and promises.

Intel, for one, is shipping 3D XPoint, a next-generation technology based on phase-change memory. In addition, the big foundries are readying embedded MRAM. And, of course, there are a number of other players in the next-generation memory arena.

There are also a number of startups that are flying under the radar. In fact, I’ve compiled a few players to watch. This list, of course, isn’t comprehensive. (If I missed a company, send me an e-mail and/or provide a comment on our feedback button.)

Not in any particular order, here’s my list:

Ferroelectric Memory Co.

Formed in 2016, Ferroelectric Memory Co. (FMC) is developing a next-generation ferroelectric RAM (FRAM), dubbed a ferroelectric FET (FeFET).

FMC’s FeFET technology makes use of an existing transistor. Then, using a deposition process, a silicon-doped hafnium oxide material is deposited into the gate stack of the transistor, creating a ferroelectric property.

“In FeFETs, a permanent dipole is formed within the gate dielectric itself, splitting the threshold voltage of the ferroelectric transistor into two stable states,” said Stefan Müller, chief executive of FMC. “Accordingly, binary states can be stored in the FeFETs similar to how it is done in a flash memory cell.”

Still in R&D, FMC’s FeFET technology is targeted for embedded memory applications. GlobalFoundries, FMC, NaMLab, Fraunhofer and others recently reached a milestone by demonstrating an embedded, nonvolatile FeFET in a 22nm FD-SOI process.

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Numem

Last year, Numem, formerly known as NVMEngines, was formed. The company is developing IP for both the embedded MRAM and ReRAM markets.

The technology “enables a high-end memory architecture,” said Jack Guedj, a semiconductor veteran and president and chief executive of Numem.

So far, Numem is seeing more momentum for one memory type. “We’ve seen more interest in the market for MRAM,” Guedj said.

The company’s IP technology is said to provide a significant advantage over today’s embedded flash technology. It can also replace or complement SRAM. “If you need a very large cache memory, we can put three times the memory in the same chip,” he said.

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SkyWater Technology Foundry

Last year, a venture-backed company acquired Cypress Semiconductor’s 200mm fab in Bloomington, Minn. Previously, Cypress’ fab in Bloomington provided foundry services.

That operation is now called SkyWater Technology Foundry. SkyWater is not a memory company, but rather it is a pure-play specialty foundry vendor. It has one 200mm fab with various processes.

SkyWater, however, is involved in a major memory project with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). SkyWater is working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Stanford on a project called Three Dimensional Monolithic System-on-a-Chip (3DSoC).

The group is developing a 3D monolithic device. The goal is to stack ReRAM on top of a carbon nanotube field effect transistor. “3DSOC technology has the potential to have a profound impact on our industry in the way we look at performance scaling and power efficiency in next-generation devices, products, and technology platforms,” said Thomas Sonderman, president of SkyWater.

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Weebit Nano

Incorporated in 2015, Weebit Nano has been developing a ReRAM. The ReRAM is different than other technologies, as Weebit is using silicon oxide (SiOx) as the memory element.

In June, Weebit Nano achieved a milestone by demonstrating a 1-megabit capacity ReRAM array at 40nm using SiOx. SiOx memory elements have demonstrated high on-off ratios, multi-bit capabilities and low-energy consumption.

The SiOx ReRAM was demonstrated at Leti, the company’s technology partner. “There is still a lot of work to be done before we have a production module ready to ship. We also announced recently that we extended the agreement with Leti, so that we can improve the different parameters of our memory and bring them to production quality. We expect to engage with early adopters by early next year,” said Coby Hanoch, chief executive of WeeBit Nano.

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Yangtze Memory Technologies Co. (YMTC)

Founded in 2016, China’s YMTC is developing 3D NAND. In fact, the company is readying a 64-layer 3D NAND technology in the market.

YMTC’s investors include Tsinghua Unigroup, the National IC Industry Investment Fund and Hubei Local IC Funds. In total, the investment is $24 billion.

YMTC recently rolled out its new technology, dubbed Xtacking. “This is going to be a game changer in the NAND industry,” said Simon Yang, chief executive at YMTC.

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