Better Memory - VRAM, an Advancement in Digital Storage Memory
- Accept the Challenge
- About NRL
- Doing Business
- Public Affairs & Media
- Public Affairs Office
- News Releases
- 2014 News Releases
- 2013 News Releases
- 2012 News Releases
- 2011 News Releases
- 2010 News Releases
- 2009 News Releases
- 2008 News Releases
- 2007 News Releases
- 2006 News Releases
- 2005 News Releases
- 2004 News Releases
- 2003 News Releases
- 2002 News Releases
- 2001 News Releases
- 2000 News Releases
- 1999 News Releases
- 1998 News Releases
- 1997 News Releases
- 1996 News Releases
- NRL Videos
- Email Updates
- Social Media
- NRL Events
- Popular Images
- Public Notices
- Field Sites
- Visitor Info
- Contact NRL
A revolutionary new type of digital storage memory, funded since its infancy by the Office of Naval Research, recently reached a milestone and transitioned into the testing and debugging phase of its development. This new technology -- Vertical Giant Magnetoresistance Random Access Memory, or VRAM -- was conceived and demonstrated by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and Carnegie Mellon University. Dr. Gary Prinz and his colleagues of NRL's Materials Science and Technology are conducting the research at the Laboratory.
"The technology is a direct product of a basic research program supported for many years by ONR to explore new materials and concepts in magnetism, which is a strength of ONR programs," said Dr. Larry Cooper, the ONR program officer who funds the work.
VRAM memory has the potential to replace all mechanically driven storage media, including computer hard drives and compact discs. The new goal is a technology, which will produce a 100 to 1,000-fold increase in the storage capacity over semiconducting memory. The dynamic RAM used by today's personal computers must continually refresh their memory cells or all of the information contained in them would be lost. A static form of RAM exists that does not need constant refreshing, but it is expensive and consumes a lot of chip area.
VRAM dramatically reduces the need for transistors, leading to lower cost, and retains information without continual refreshing, reducing the power requirement. Theinformation contained in the memory cells remains there, even when the power is turned off. The researchers estimate that VRAM technology will also increase memory access speed by a factor of 10. The high-density, non-volatility, radiation-hardness and low-power attributes of VRAM make it well suited to space, avionics, and shipboard applications. In addition to its freedom from moving mechanical parts, the technology is particularly advantageous when a component or system, once implemented, is difficult or impossible to retrieve.
In 1999, ONR awarded a contract
to Nonvolatile Electronics, Inc., under the Navy Small Business
Program, to develop the enabling technology for VRAM. The Minnesota-based
company recently met its Phase I goals, which included completing
a preliminary circuit design and outlining a process for fabricating
integrated VRAM memory arrays. Under the Phase II portion of
the contract, the company will design the circuits, develop processing
technology, fabricate, test and debug the
technology, then produce and demonstrate a prototype VRAM array fully integrated with silicon-based electronics.
"We're pleased at the progress Nonvolatile Electronics has made in bringing this technology closer to a manufacturing environment," Cooper said. "Ultimately, we believe it will be possible to produce vertical giant magnetoresistance memory cells on existing silicon processing lines with only minor modifications."
The total annual market for nonvolatile
solid-state memory is estimated at more than $10 billion, with
this new technology addressing a significant portion of that
About the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory
The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory is the Navy's full-spectrum corporate laboratory, conducting a broadly based multidisciplinary program of scientific research and advanced technological development. The Laboratory, with a total complement of approximately 2,500 personnel, is located in southwest Washington, D.C., with other major sites at the Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Monterey, Calif. NRL has served the Navy and the nation for over 90 years and continues to meet the complex technological challenges of today's world. For more information, visit the NRL homepage or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
Comment policy: We hope to receive submissions from all viewpoints, but we ask that all participants agree to the Department of Defense Social Media User Agreement. All comments are reviewed before being posted.