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Toshiba, NEC advance magnetic memory

Japanese giants tout methods to reduce MRAM's power consumption, cell size.

The two Japanese giants this week unveiled a paper that showed methods to cut down power consumption and size in cells of MRAM, a type of memory that may replace conventional computer memory (DRAM) and even flash memory. The Toshiba-NEC memory cells, discussed at the International Electron Devices Meeting in San Francisco, are similar in shape to the rectangular memory cells used in other MRAM chips, but they also contain arc-shaped bulges at the end.

"With this new design, write current is approximately half that of present MRAM, and writing errors are reduced," the companies said. The companies also showed off MRAM chips in which a single transistor can control four cells. Typically, a transistor is needed for each cell. Cutting transistors reduces size and energy consumption. Memory chips will likely be the first types of chips to undergo radical design changes in the next two decades, as chip designers wrestle with wringing more life out of Moore's Law. Competitors to MRAM include Ovonic and molecular memory.