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The Quest for a Universal Memory

Smartphones and tablets demand faster and more energy efficient memory, but a one-size-fits-all technology is proving elusive

4 min read
The Quest for a Universal Memory

17 May 2012—Our smartphones and ultrathin laptops rely on a triumvirate of memory technologies—SRAM, DRAM, and flash—each customized for a specific purpose. They’ve all been fabulous workhorses, but now these memories are struggling to keep up with the steady demand for chips that are faster, cheaper, more reliable, and more energy efficient.

Industry watchers expect the most-advanced memory makers to hit a wall around 2015. So the question is, What comes next? Will we always be saddled with a complex hierarchy of different kinds of memory? Or is it possible we just might find the memory industry’s version of a cure-all—a single, universal memory format that can provide high-density storage, low-power operation, and unparalleled speed?

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3D-Stacked CMOS Takes Moore’s Law to New Heights

When transistors can’t get any smaller, the only direction is up

10 min read
An image of stacked squares with yellow flat bars through them.
Emily Cooper

Perhaps the most far-reaching technological achievement over the last 50 years has been the steady march toward ever smaller transistors, fitting them more tightly together, and reducing their power consumption. And yet, ever since the two of us started our careers at Intel more than 20 years ago, we’ve been hearing the alarms that the descent into the infinitesimal was about to end. Yet year after year, brilliant new innovations continue to propel the semiconductor industry further.

Along this journey, we engineers had to change the transistor’s architecture as we continued to scale down area and power consumption while boosting performance. The “planar” transistor designs that took us through the last half of the 20th century gave way to 3D fin-shaped devices by the first half of the 2010s. Now, these too have an end date in sight, with a new gate-all-around (GAA) structure rolling into production soon. But we have to look even further ahead because our ability to scale down even this new transistor architecture, which we call RibbonFET, has its limits.

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