Austin-based startup and Rice University create a ReRAM prototype that packs only 1-kbit

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PrivaTranResearchers at Rice University in collaboration with Austin-based startup chip design house PrivaTran Inc. demonstrated a proof-of-concept Resistive random-access memory (ReRAM) that packs only 1-kbit, but which they claim can be scaled beyond the densities of flash.

They accomplished this by carefully crafting the voltage pulses going through it, thin layers of silicon dioxide can be made to change their resistance from near infinite to near zero, according to Rice and PrivaTran (Austin, Texas). SanDisk Corp. in fact has used this phenomenon to create write-once memories, but now Rice and PrivaTran claim to have made the process reversible, thereby enabling pure silicon ReRAMs.

In their prototype, the crossbar electrodes were made from polysilicon, enabling the entire memory array to be cast in silicon. In characterizing the all-silicon memories, the researchers found that they could switch in under 100 nanoseconds and could withstood 10,000 read/erase/write cycles, similar to flash memories, but with the possibility of going to much higher densities than flash.

If the semiconductor industry commercializes the technology, Rice and PrivaTran Inc., a small Austin technology company working with it, could reap financial benefits.

PrivaTran worked closely with Rice researchers to create working prototypes containing 1,000 memory elements. Those prototypes are now being tested.

“Everyone is excited,” said PrivaTran CEO Glenn Mortland. “When you can demonstrate a 1K (1,000-bit) memory array on a lab bench,” people in the semiconductor industry take notice, he said. That’s because a technology that can be scaled up to a prototype of that size has the potential to be expanded further to make much larger memory devices.

PrivaTran is using the technology in several projects supported by the Army Research Office, the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the Navy Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command .

PrivaTran is a small tech startup with 10 employees, it employs both silicon designers and process engineers, and as many other tech startup it competes for funds through federal Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs.

PrivaTran, which employs both silicon designers and process engineers, has been working with Rice for three years.