IDF: Intel to demonstrate possible DRAM replacement

Intel Chief Technology Officer Justin Rattner plans to give the company's first public demonstration of its PRAM (phase-change RAM) technology at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) conference, which starts Tuesday in Beijing. PRAM is a type of non-volatile memory being developed by Intel and several other companies. The prototype chips are seen as a replacement […]

Intel Chief Technology Officer Justin Rattner plans to give the company's first public demonstration of its PRAM (phase-change RAM) technology at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) conference, which starts Tuesday in Beijing.

PRAM is a type of non-volatile memory being developed by Intel and several other companies. The prototype chips are seen as a replacement for flash memory and, perhaps, DRAM (dynamic RAM). Unlike DRAM, non-volatile memory like flash can store memory when a device's power is turned off, but flash memory chips write and read data more slowly than DRAM, have less capacity, and are also more expensive.

"We're thinking phase change is looking promising and we're going to go into production with that part in the second half of the year," Rattner said during an interview ahead of IDF.

PRAM is based on chalcogenide glass, which can be altered using the heat generated by an electric current. Heat changes the physical structure of the glass to either a crystalline or amorphous state. Each of these states has a distinct electrical resistance that is used to represent the ones and zeroes needed to represent stored data in binary terms.

PRAM looks set to offer better read-write speed and durability than flash memory, which works by trapping electrons in a memory cell. Over time, electrons inevitably become trapped in these cells and can no longer be removed, rendering the memory chip useless.

"It's not clear there's actually a wear out mechanism because your just moving this material, chalcogenide, between phase states," Rattner said. "Inherently, that's not a destructive process."

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IDF, Intel, Demonstrate, DRAM, PRAM, RAM, Memory, Replacement