AMD licenses Z-RAM technology

Santa Clara (CA) - Following rumors in the past week, Innovative Silicon (ISi) today announced that AMD has licensed its Z-RAM technology that may enable the processor manufacturer not only to increase on-chip memory sizes for its CPUs but also reduce I/O power consumption. ISi claims to have Z-RAM technology currently running on 90 nm SOI silicon.

"We are very pleased to announce that AMD has contracted to purchase a technology license for our Z-RAM embedded memory technology," stated ISi's president and CEO, Mark-Eric Jones. "We are proud to have such a prominent and successful technology company with a strong reputation for innovation select Z-RAM memory, and underline the validity of the Z-RAM approach in comparison with other, less proven technologies."

Z-RAM - which stands for Zero Capacitor DRAM - so far is a little known memory technology that is currently developed by ISi. Details about the capabilities of the technology are scarce, but the developer claims that it ZRAM is able to increase today's memory capacity by a factor of 5 and ultimately can increase chip performance while decreasing the power consumption of I/O processes. Compared to standard SRAM, ISi said that Z-RAM also is more resistant to the amount of soft errors,

AS IP company, ISI is not expected to manufacture the memory, but rather sell licenses to manufacture the technology. However, ISi claims that Z-RAM memory arrays have been produced on a 90 nm SOI process at a "leading pureplay semiconductor foundry" as well as "a renowned U.S. semiconductor manufacturer," which apparently is Freescale. In addition to that, the company said that its memory bitcell technology has been manufactured in ten other fabrication processes that include 130nm SOI, 90nm SOI, and FinFET technologies. Working silicon in 65 nm is expected to arrive later in Q1, ISi said.

The firm's Z-RAM is based on a single transistor technology to create an "extremely" dense, high-performance memory instance and is positioned to replace embedded SRAM as embedded memory technology for example in CPU applications. SRAM is based on a six transistor cell. According to ISi, Z-RAM uses the Floating Body (FB) effect of Silicon On Insulator (SOI) devices that enables state storage without a capacitor storage device. "Because the memory cell uses only a single transistor, Z-RAM is typically twice the density of embedded DRAM and 5 times the density of embedded SRAM, yet requires no exotic materials, no extra mask steps, and no new physics," ISi explains.

As a result, the company believes that the density of Z-RAM may allow chip manufacturers to tackle one of the most challenging problems in chip design: If memory fits in a smaller space - embedded memory typically occupies more than half the available real estate on a CPU die - then the overall size of a processor and its production could be substantially reduced.