U.S. spy agency funds 8-bit per cell MRAM



U.S. spy agency funds 8-bit per cell MRAM

Peter Clarke   4/9/2013 12:03 PM EDT

A company with French roots and a $300 million Russian funding deal has won a contract from IARPA, the spying equivalent of DARPA, to develop an 8-bit per cell MRAM.

LONDON – Crocus Technology Inc. (Santa Clara, Calif.), a company developing magnetic random access memory technology (MRAM), has been awarded a contract to develop 8-bit per cell MRAM technology by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA).

Crocus Technology was founded in 2006 in Grenoble, France and in 2011 the company entered into a $300 million deal to create a Russian joint venture with the Rusnano, the Russian state investment fund for nanotechnology.

IARPA invests in high-risk, high-payoff research programs that have the potential to provide the United States with an overwhelming intelligence advantage over future adversaries.

This IARPA contract represents the first phase of a multi-bit cell development project scheduled to be completed in one year.

Crocus has been contracted to expand its magnetic logic unit (MLU) architecture and exceed the state-of-the-art limit in terms of the number of bits that can be stored per memory cell.

This is would then reduce the energy consumed per written-bit below that of other memory technologies including DRAM, flash, SRAM and MRAM, Crocus said.

The 8-bit per cell structure will be used to enhance chip security and cryptoprocessors. Multiple bits per cell makes it more complex for hackers to gain access to the secret keys using known crypto analysis methods. Crocus said.

The value of the contract was not disclosed.
Crocus plans to demonstrate 8-bits per cell by combining Axial Induced Moment (AIM) technology and the Multi-Junction Magnetic Tunnel Junction (MJM). AIM uses the variable angle of the magnetic moment vector to encode binary data in a magnetic cell. Crocus proposes to demonstrate AIM with 16 storage angles yielding 4-bits per AIM cell. The MJM structure uses two tunnel barriers stacked in a single MLU cell. In a combined AIM/MJM structure, the two storage layers of MJM are operated with each layer supporting a rotating AIM storage vector. The combined AIM/MJM structure is capable of storing 16 states in each of two independent storage layers, resulting in 256 possible stored states or 8-bits per cell storage density.

"AIM and MJM are breakthrough magnetic structures within Crocus’ MLU architecture that enable the unprecedented storage capability of up to 8-bits per cell," said Douglas Lee, vice president, system strategy and corporate product development at Crocus Technology, in a statement. "The current semiconductor non-volatile memory state-of-the-art is 3 to 4 bits per cell, as achieved in NAND flash memory and is reaching the physical limits of floating gate memory technology. The current state-of-the-art in MRAM is only 1 bit per cell storage."

"Crocus’ multi-bit MLU architecture enables new and unique applications that are not addressable through any other silicon or magnetic memory technology," said Bertrand F. Cambou, executive chairman of Crocus Technology, in the same statement.

"These new applications are of particular value to security applications, particularly for their ability to provide unprecedented capabilities with regard to tamper resistance and authentication, higher memory density within existing lithographic manufacturing infrastructure and expanded operating temperature ranges up to 200 degrees Celcius."

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