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Unity Semiconductor reveals storage-class memory, challenges the NAND flash market.

Sunnyvale, CA-based Unity Semiconductor Corp disclosed its storage-class non-volatile memory, called CMOx, which is based on the use of conductive metal oxide material. Unity’s objective is to have the smallest die size at the lowest manufacturing cost per bit for memory data storage by using its multi-layer memory CMOx technology. The density, small size, and write performance targets CMOx as a replacement for NAND flash.
Unity has been processing 64-kilobit products for the past two years, 64-megabit products for one year, and is in the design stage of a 64-gigabit product that is now close to tape-out and slated for pilot production in the last half of 2010, with volume production in 2Q 2011.
“Storage-class memories (SCM) are currently defined as either memory-based (nonvolatile RAM) or storage-centric,” said Alan Niebel, CEO of Web-Feet Research. “As the first cross-point storage device CMOx is capable of being scaled below 20 nm with a volumetric density better than 4 bits/cell NAND. It uses less than 1 microamp of write current per cell; it has a 10x write performance and better endurance compared to NAND, and at a much lower cost.”
Unity said the total accessible market for its storage non-volatile memory products will be $15 billion in 2010 and more than $25 billion in 2013.
CMOx is designed for solid state drives for notebook PCs and netbooks, mobile Internet devices, and smart phones. More than 90% of these market segments will use embedded flash by 2012, the report said.
CMOx memory represents a next generation non-volatile technology based on a switching effect that occurs in certain metal oxide combinations when ionic charge carriers move. It can be used to form a passive cross-point multi-layer memory array. CMOx does not require a transistor per cell, as in other memory technologies such as phase-change memory or magneto-resistive random-access memory products.

For FEOL (front-end-of-line) strategy, Unity will use the same in-house 90nm-based CMOS for multiple generations, lowering the lost of base substrate manufacturing without additional investment in processing.
Its BEOL (back-end-of-line) strategy requires a joint venture partner for volume manufacturing with an undisclosed memory IDM, since this area requires leading-edge, aggressive semiconductor production tools. A company spokesman would not name the partner, saying only that the partner is a leading Japanese ASIC provider.
In other news, today Unity Semiconductor acquired Series C financing of $22 million from its three major venture capital investors—August Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Morgenthaler Ventures, and from an unidentified hard-disk drive manufacturer, also a repeat investor. The total of all funding to date since Unity Semiconductor started in 2002 comes to $75 million.
“This latest investment demonstrates that our group of experienced, top-tier investors has confidence in our proprietary technology and our progress in developing it,” said Darrell Rinerson, CEO at Unity.
“What Unity has developed is like the holy grail—a technology that not only betters NAND flash in all key performance metrics, but can scale through many process generations to come,” said Andy Rappaport, partner at August Capital.

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