IBM phase-change memory breakthrough moves PCM closer to RAM, flash replacement

May 17, 2016 // By Julien Happich
Five years after they had published their first results proving the viability of a 2-bit per cell phase-change memory (PCM), scientists at IBM Research (Yorktown Heights, NY) have managed to push their coding scheme and design to store three bits of data per cell.

The researchers first demonstrated reliable storage and moderate data retention of 2 bits/cell PCM, on a 64 k cell array, from room temperature (around 30ºC) to 80ºC and after 1 million SET/RESET endurance cycles. Under similar operating conditions, they then demonstrated the feasibility of 3 bits/cell PCM (eight levels of data encoding), with a chip consisting of a 2×2 Mcell array with a 4- bank interleaved architecture.

The memory array size is 2×1000μm×800μm and the PCM cells are based on doped-chalcogenide alloy, they were integrated into the prototype chip serving as a characterization vehicle in 90nm CMOS baseline technology.

"Reaching three bits per cell is a significant milestone because at this density the cost of PCM will be significantly less than DRAM and closer to flash", said Dr. Haris Pozidis, manager of non-volatile memory research at IBM Research and one of the authors of the paper presented at the IEEE International Memory Workshop in Paris.

The multi-bit storage capability relies on a set of drift-immune cell-state metrics and drift-tolerant coding and detection schemes.

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