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2004 World Technology Awards Winners & Finalists

Motorola

Please describe the work that you are doing that you consider to be the most innovative and of the greatest likely long-term significance.

Magnetoresistive random access memory (MRAM) is a revolutionary memory technology that can potentially replace today's semiconductor memory technologies . MRAM combines the best attributes of the three major memories—density of eDRAM, the speed of eSRAM and the non-volatility of Flash—onto a "single" chip. MRAM uses magnetic moments, rather than an electric charge, to determine the on-off state of the memory bit cell. It allows a single memory solution to replace multiple memory options within one chip—helping to enable faster, lower power, more cost-effective solutions for next-generation wireless (and other memory-intensive) products.

In mid 2002, Motorola successfully demonstrated a 1 Mb nonvolatile, low-power MRAM chip with read and write cycles of less than 50 ns. This is the largest MRAM demonstration in the industry to date and the first to be integrated with CMOS using copper interconnect technology. Motorola's MRAM cells are based on a single transistor and magnetic tunnel junction structure. Motorola is currently working on a 4 Mb MRAM chip and expects to sample products in 2003. Motorola has more than 70 U.S. patents on MRAM—more than any other semiconductor company.

Since MRAM combines nonvolatility, endurance, speed and density, it has the potential to function as a universal memory in many applications and eliminates the need to combine memories. Consumer electronics, automobiles and PCs are examples of the potential uses of MRAM.

In applications where the speed of microprocessors is limited by the bottleneck of data transfer between nonvolatile memory and processor chips, MRAM is designed to remove the bottleneck by placing the high-speed nonvolatile memory directly in communications with the microprocessor. In addition, MRAM is expected to have better write characteristics because it does not require high-voltage programming required for nonvolatile Flash. It will offer "instant on" capability and is expected to substantially reduce the battery power drain for portable electronic devices because it does not require refresh. Because MRAM is easily integrated with conventional CMOS, single-chip solutions will reduce the cost of multichip memory/processor applications.