We often see press releases and announcements about the next big technology in batteries, memory, displays, capacitors, or any of a number of other things. Usually we are suspicious since we typically don’t see any of this new technology in the marketplace over any reasonable timescale. So when we read about correlated-electron memory Cerfe Labs, we had to wonder if it would be more of the same. IOur suspicions may be justified of course, but it is telling that the company is a spin-off from ARM, so that gives them some real-world credibility.
Correlated-electron RAM or CeRAM is the usual press release material. Nonvolatile, smaller than SRAM, and fast. It sounds as though it could replace the SRAM in PC caches, for example, and take up less die space on the CPU chip. The principle is a bit odd. When electrons are forced together in certain materials, the properties of the material can change. This Mott transition (named after the inventor [Neville Mott]) can take carbon-doped nickel oxide and switch it from its natural electrical insulating state to a conducting state and back again.
Whereas a traditional static RAM cell requires up to six transistors, a Mott cell is just a bit of material and one transistor. Speedwise it seems devices exist with 2ns write cycle, something they expect to get better with more work. We’ve read that the material changes state within 100 femtoseconds. There are some other tantalizing features. The memory appears to work at very cold temperatures (like, cryogenic temperatures) and very hot temperatures, as well. It also may be radiation resistance and can be made to operate on very low voltages.
The new company doesn’t plan to actually build devices but wants to develop the technology to the point that a major manufacturer will take over the technology and bring it to market. There are doubtlessly many hurdles to putting something like this in real production and it is yet unknown if the devices can be written to repeatedly without degradation.