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November 09, 1998 in Social Responsibility News

SAMSUNG's FRAM Has an Advanced (and Simplified) Cell Structure with One Transistor and One Capacitor (1T/1C). In Addition, Double-Layer Metal Circuit Processing Has Been Applied to Enhance Integration

Seoul, South Korea - November, 9, 1998 - Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., has begun distributing engineering samples of the 64K ferroelectric random access memory (FRAM) chip. Development of this device has given Samsung Electronics a technological platform for a new line of memory chips for the future.

Like the DRAM, the FRAM is easy to design and can store a large volume of data. On the other hand, the FRAM has the high processing speed of the SRAM and the non-volatility (capability to retain data when the power supply is cut) of flash memory devices. With all these strong points, the FRAM is being hailed as `reaching the ultimate technological limit of memory chips.`

Samsung Electronics and Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology completed initial development of a 64K FRAM in 1996. After two more years of intensive research, Samsung Electronics has shipped engineering samples, joining in intense competition with chipmakers in Japan, the US and Europe over this high-tech device. The company is now poised to commercialize 4M and 16M versions, which will have a wide range of applications in portable multi-media products.

Samsung`s FRAM has an advanced (and simplified) cell structure with one transistor and one capacitor (1T/1C). In addition, double-layer metal circuit processing has been applied to enhance integration and processing speed. As a result, the Samsung version operates twice as fast as conventional FRAMs do. At the same time, it is highly reliable as a data storage device.

FRAM development is still in the initial stages, so only a small number of them are being used in products such as smart cards, games and electronic notebooks. However, their use will expand in the future to include portable communications terminals and multimedia products. FRAMs with a memory capacity of 1 megabit or higher are forecast to be on the market next year, and they will begin to replace SRAMs and flash memory chips in products. From the year 2000, ant annual market for FRAMs is forecast to be worth $3 billion ; moreover, annual growth of that market is expected to be 150%.

Chip makers in Japan, the US and Europe are still having trouble finding the technology needed for low-cost packages and for greater FRAM integration. By contrast, Samsung Electronics has approached FRAM development as a way to differentiate its memory products from the competition in order to secure a strong market position.

The ferroelectric random access memory is a new class of memory product that uses a ferroelectric material (film) with residual polarization properties. The residual polarity in the FRAM operates on the atomic level (i.e. an externally applied electric field moves the atom at the center of the ferroelectric crystal to one of two stable positions), giving the device all the advantages of other memory devices. These advantages include the high processing speed of the SRAM and the non-volatility of flash memory.
Moreover, the FRAM can operate on a single power source, without the need for boosting internal voltage, and overall power consumption is low. The other non-volatile memory products such as flash devices and EEPROM require more power to operate and wear out after far fewer rewrite cycles than FRAM devices do. Future technologies that will determine the success of failure of the FRAM in the marketplace include greater integration (1T/1C, multi-layer metal circuitry), better packaging and read/write cycles of at least ten billion.

Ferroelectric Material
The dielectric constant is very high, and the hysteresis is such that a large amount of polarization will survive even when the electric field is reduced to zero. Typical examples of ferroelectric material include PZT and Y1.

Non-volatile Memory
Volatile devices such as DRAMs and SRAMs must be continuously supplied with electrical power to preserve their data. Non-volatile devices such as MASK ROMs, EEPROMs and flash memory chifps will not lose their data after a power break. FRAMs are not only non-volatile, but the can also be electrically rewritten.

A typical example of ferroelectric material is PZT (lead zirconate titanate), an alloy of lead oxide, zirconium oxide and titanium oxide.

Each memory cell is made up of two transistors and two capacitors. The large number of elements lowers the amount of integration possible.

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