By Kim Yoo-chul
SK hynix said Sunday it has formed a strategic alliance with International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) of the United States for the joint development of phase-change random access memory (PcRAM), widely considered as the next-generation of memory chips.
IBM is an American multinational technology firm that manufactures and sells computer hardware and software.
The alliance reflects desperate efforts to develop highly-advanced chips amid the rising popularity of smartphones and tablets. The firm believes that it cannot survive with the existing chips ― NAND flash and DRAMs, which are expected to become obsolete in the next few years.
``The latest collaboration will help us strengthen our capability to better compete with rivals in the next-generation chips,’’ said Song Hyeon-jeong, head of the company’s future strategy office.
PcRAM is a type of non-volatile memory chip and it uses the unique property of chalcogenide glass, which is already used in recordable CDs, to switch between two states. PcRAM can store a lot of data but is slower than conventional DRAM, so it could be used in combination with other technology or as a possible replacement for flash memory chips.
Because the chip-making structure is simple, SK hynix expects to save in manufacturing, it said. PcRAM application requires the corresponding phase-change process to be induced by an electrical current and more importantly, a significantly-higher packing density of information.
With PcRAM, magnetoresistive RAM or MRAM, the more promising version of MRAM called spin-torque transfer MRAM or STT-MRAM, which packs memory together more densely, are considered the newest technologies.
Since last year, SK hynix has been working together with Japan’s Toshiba for the development of STT-MRAM. Toshiba officials have said it could be possible to use STT-MRAM in some personal PCs from next year.
In cooperation with the Hewlett-Packard (HP) of the United States, SK hynix is also in the middle of developing resistive RAM or ReRAM, also considered another next-generation memory technology.
Like STT-MRAM, MRAM and PcRAM, ReRAM has its drawbacks ― its cells wear out quicker than MRAM ― but it should read and write 1,000 times faster than flash, theoretically.
``We continue to expect that this technology will dramatically improve the performance of computer storage in terms of price, energy efficiency and capacity,’’ an HP spokesman said.