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Intel invests in plastic memory – again

Doubles its stake in 'Flash killer' Polymer RAM producer

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Intel has renewed its investment in Norway-based Opticom ASA's programme to develop a possible successor to Flash memory made out of... er... plastic.

Intel already owns a six per cent stake in Opticom's Thin Film Electronics operation. This week it increased that stake to 13 per cent in exchange for $7.85 million.

Intel is essentially bank-rolling Opticom's development efforts. Its additional stake grants it rights to bring Opticom's polymer memory technology to market.

If, of course, Opticom can make it work as a commercial product. If it can, the technology could deliver non-volatile memory that reads back data at ten times the speed Flash memory does.

Opticom has been working on polymer memory for some time - Intel came into the picture in November 1999. The new round of funding will allow Opticom to build a prototype device, so don't expect polymer memory to start replacing Flash any time soon.

Opticom portrays Polymer RAM as not only high speed, but low cost and - importantly - low power. It will also be smaller, the company claims: "For a 1Gb memory this means that while traditional silicon-based memories require 1.5-6.5 billion transistors, the polymer memory only needs 0.5 million transistors."

And: "In the polymer case the transfer speed is a function of a multi-layered parallelism, allowing optimal segmentation and high speed parallel read-out. The data transfer speeds that can be attained are not limited by the technology itself, but rather by I/O restrictions. As a result of this, the word length can be extended from the existing 64 and 128-bit architectures to words of thousands and even millions of bits."

Production should be simple: Opticom envisions punching out polymer RAM cores like tickertape, with polymer memory chips costing less than five per cent of what it costs to make Flash.

It all sounds great. But it's easy for the company to make these claims - much harder to deliver. ®

Related Link

Thin Film Electronics' homepage

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