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Hynix Semiconductor Inc. and Toshiba Corporation Collaborate in Making MRAM

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

On June 13th, Hynix Semiconductor Inc. and Toshiba Corporation, the world’s two leading semiconductor manufacturers, have announced that they have agreed to a strategic collaboration in making a next-generation memory device, Spin-Transfer Torque Magnetoresistance Random Access Memory (MRAM).

The collaboration of these two companies can be seen as an alliance to keep Samsung from being the sole lead in the semiconductor market. The companies said when the technology development completes, the companies will produce MRAM in a joint venture.

MRAM is a next-generation memory solution, different from Dynamic Random-Access Memory (DRAM), which distinguishes between 0 and 1 by passing an electron trough a capacitor. However, unlike DRAM, MRAM is a type of randomaccess memory that stores data by using magnetic properties, and it can be determined by measuring the difference in resistance from magnetization on a magnetic tunnel junction (MTJ). By reorienting the magnetization of a thin magnet layer in a tunnel magnetoresistance (TMR) element using a spin-polarized current, the data is written and saved. Certain features including non-volatile memory, power efficiency, and ultra-high speed have made MRAM the promising next-generation memory technology. Companies including IBM, Honeywell, Cypress and Infineon have been working on this technology.

Toshiba wrote that the company recognizes MRAM as an important future generation memory technology with the potential to sustain future growth in its semiconductor business. “We believe that MRAM has huge potential as highly scalable non-volatile RAM,” said Kiyoshi Kobayashi, Corporate Senior Vice President of Toshiba Corporation, and President and CEO of Toshiba’s Semiconductor and Storage Products Company. “We will strongly promote initiatives in integration of storage solutions including MRAM, NAND, and HDD. The MRAM joint development program with Hynix is one of the key steps to support our efforts.”

As for the reason for a joint production, the companies said the ‘one reason for merging the necessary resources and expertise from Hynix and Toshiba is to minimize risk and to accelerate the pace of MRAM commercialization.’ The two companies also announced they extended a patent cross-licensing and product supply agreements that was reached four years ago.

Oh Chul Kwon, Hynix’s CEO said “MRAM is a rare gem full of exciting properties, like ultra high-speed, low power consumption, and high capacity, and it will play the role of key factor in driving advances in memories. It will also be a perfect fit for growing consumer demand in more sophisticated smart phones. MRAM is our next growth platform.”

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