Crocus Technology awarded IARPA contract to develop 8-bit per cell memory

April 09, 2013 // By Graham Prophet
The new structure, a first in the world, based on Crocus’ Magnetic Logic Unit architecture, will enhance chip security and crypto-processors

Crocus Technology, provider of magnetically enhanced semiconductors, has been awarded a contract from the US’ Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) to develop an 8-bit-per-cell memory based on its Magnetic Logic Unit (MLU) technology.

Under the contract, Crocus will expand its MLU architecture by adding multi-bit per cell magnetic memory capability. The company plans to demonstrate multi-bit per cell capability that will vastly exceed the current state-of-the-art limit of the number of bits that can be stored per memory cell. This will greatly reduce the energy consumed per written-bit compared to any other variety of memory technology, including DRAM, Flash, SRAM and MRAM.

In addition to the expected cost benefits of such a structure, the benefits for chip security and enhanced embedded crypto-processors are significant. In these applications, secret keys are stored in the embedded memory. Multiple bits per cell greatly complicate the challenge for hackers to physically gain access to the secret keys using known crypto analysis methods. Secure embedded crypto-processors are currently deployed in applications such as passports, banking cards and SIM telephone cards.

Traditional magnetic memories are based on memory cells where each cell stores a single bit of data. Crocus plans to demonstrate 8-bits per cell capability through the work to be performed under the IARPA contract by combining two innovative magnetic structures, the Axial Induced Moment (AIM) and the Multi-Junction Magnetic Tunnel Junction (MJM). AIM uses a variable angle magnetic moment vector to encode binary data in a magnetic cell. Crocus proposes to demonstrate AIM with 16 storage angles yielding 4-bits per AIM cell. The MJM structure uses two tunnel barriers stacked in a single MLU cell. In a combined AIM/MJM structure, the two storage layers of MJM are operated with each layer supporting a rotating AIM storage vector. The combined AIM/MJM structure is capable of storing 16 states in each of two independent storage layers, resulting in 256 possible stored states or 8-bits per