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Breakthrough in CMOS-compatible ferroelectric memory

The first vertically stacked ferroelectric aluminium doped hafnium dioxide (HfO2) device for NAND applications has been demonstrated by imec.

Using a new material and a novel architecture, the Belgian nanoelectronics research centre has created a non-volatile memory concept with the potential to improve power consumption, switching speed, scalability and retention.

According to imec, ferro-electric memory has always been considered ideal, due to its very low power needs, non-volatile character and high switching speed. However, issues with the complex materials, the breakdown of the interfacial layer and bad retention characteristics have presented significant challenges. The recent discovery of a ferro-electric phase in HfO2, a well-known and less complex material, has triggered a renewed interest in this memory concept.

“With HfO2, there is now a material with which we can process ferro-electric memories that are fully CMOS compatible. This allows us to make a ferro-electric FET (FeFET) in both planar and vertical varieties,” said Jan Van Houdt, imec’s chief scientist for memory technology.

“FeFETs can be used as a technology to build memory very similar to flash memory, but with additional advantages for further scaling, simplified processing, and power consumption.

“It is, in fact, suitable for both stand-alone and embedded memories at various points in the memory hierarchy, going all the way from non-volatile DRAM to flash-like memories. It has particularly interesting characteristics for future storage-class memory, which will help overcome the current bottleneck caused by the differences in speed between fast processors and slower mass memory.”

Peggy Lee

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