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Phase change memory arrives

Numonyx launches Omneo product

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Numonyx has launched two Phase Change Memory (PCM) products under an Omneo brand.

Both are 90nm, 128Mbit parts with the P5Q product having a serial peripheral interface and the P8P one using a parallel NOR interface. The P8P is a second-generation product that supports, Numonyx says, one million write cycles. The gen 1 product supported 100,000.

PCM works by having the state of its Chalcogenide material changed between amorphous and poly-crystalline stages through the application of heat. The phase change is permanet but can be changed, and alters the resistance of the cell, leading to its use as a binary device. Unlike flash memory the product is byte-addressable, meaning that entire blocks don't have to be erased and re-written to reflect a single byte change.

The idea is that PCM can replace flash and also substitute for DRAM because it s supposed to be much faster than flash at reads and writes.

Numonyx says the products "promise up to 300 times faster write speeds and ten times more write endurance than today’s flash memory." But it also states: "PCM offers fast random access times. Like NAND flash, PCM has the ability to write moderately fast," hence the "promise" word. Numonyx doesn't reveal the actual write speed.

It also says: "PCM technology appears to have a write cycling endurance better than that of NAND or NOR flash, but less than that of RAM."

Samsung has a 60nm, 512Mbit PCM part available. Recently Intel and Micron found a way to stack PCM dies to bulk up capacity, and to scale the process down as far as 5nm. These two Numonyx parts don't use the stacking technology, it appears, and what we have is a gen 2 128Mbit part with extended write endurance, built using a wider process than Samsung's. It's progress but one might have hoped for more.

HP is developing its own alternative Memristor technology to succeed flash but no product is available.

The P8P product comes as either a 56-Lead TSOP package or as a 64-Ball Numonyx Easy BGA package. The P5Q is available in a SO16 wide - 16-lead plastic small outline, 300 mils body width package.

Both products are available now in volume. ®

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