Hynix Makes No-Capacitor DRAM

Z-RAM memory design might find a spot in the competitive DRAM market

3 min read

A Swiss company, working with memory chipmaker Hynix Semiconductor, has introduced a design that it says will be a cheaper, lower-power replacement for the common computer memory known as dynamic RAM, or DRAM.

Innovative Silicon, in Lausanne, says it has redesigned its zero-capacitor RAM, or Z-RAM, so that it can be built on the same kind of wafers used for ordinary DRAM. This is a big advance for the company, because its previous devices required expensive specialty wafers. Z-RAM, unlike DRAM, doesn’t require a capacitor, so the company estimates that the new design will be 25 to 30 percent cheaper as the critical features of memory drop below 40 nanometers over the next couple of years. What’s more, the Z-RAM cells operate at voltages as low as 0.5 to 0.6 volt, in line with what future DRAM devices will require.

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Two Startups Are Bringing Fiber to the Processor

Avicena’s blue microLEDs are the dark horse in a race with Ayar Labs’ laser-based system

5 min read
Diffuse blue light shines from a patterned surface through a ring. A blue cable leads away from it.

Avicena’s microLED chiplets could one day link all the CPUs in a computer cluster together.

Avicena

If a CPU in Seoul sends a byte of data to a processor in Prague, the information covers most of the distance as light, zipping along with no resistance. But put both those processors on the same motherboard, and they’ll need to communicate over energy-sapping copper, which slow the communication speeds possible within computers. Two Silicon Valley startups, Avicena and Ayar Labs, are doing something about that longstanding limit. If they succeed in their attempts to finally bring optical fiber all the way to the processor, it might not just accelerate computing—it might also remake it.

Both companies are developing fiber-connected chiplets, small chips meant to share a high-bandwidth connection with CPUs and other data-hungry silicon in a shared package. They are each ramping up production in 2023, though it may be a couple of years before we see a computer on the market with either product.

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