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IBM, Partners Make PC Memory Breakthrough

12/11/2006 09:18:00 AM Eastern

San Francisco — A breakthrough in the development of a new type of random access memory called Phase Change Memory (PCM) was revealed here at the International Electronic Devices Meeting.

PCM is under co-development by IBM, Infineon and Macronix. Unlike SRAM or DRAM, PCM is non-volatile so it retains the information even when there is no electricity. In addition, PCM data switching speed is in excess of 500 times faster then regular RAM and it uses half as much energy. Another result will be computers and handheld devices that can instantaneously turn on.

The magic behind PCM comes from how it changes its component material, a new alloy, from an amorphous to a crystalline structure to hold information, IBM said. Conventional RAM uses an electrical charge to record the data’s 1s and 0s on its silica, with a 1 having a charge and a 0 not.

While the breakthrough was announced, no roadmap of when PCM would become commercially available was released.

The research work will be conducted at IBM's TJ Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., and the IBM Almaden Research Lab in San Jose, Calif.