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Hynix pushes PRAM as DRAM replacement

Manufacturers develop new memory technology

Memory-maker Hynix has signed a long-term licensing agreement with phase-change memory technology developer Ovonyx, joining a list of rivals trying to develop products out of the technology.

Ovonyx will also actively support Hynix's phase change memory development efforts, the companies said today.

Hynix joins several rivals in attempting to develop phase-change memory into products such as PRAM (phase-change RAM). The memory chip is valued for its fast processing speeds combined with the ability to retain data even when power is shut off, similar to flash memory. PRAM can rewrite data 30 times faster than conventional flash memory and is expected to have at least 10 times the life span.

PRAM is also easier to manufacture than NOR flash memory, according to Samsung, the world's largest memory chip maker. The company last year unveiled a working prototype of a 512MB chip, and expects to have chips of the same capacity available in early 2008.

Samsung, IBM, Qimonda AG, STMicroelectronics and Intel are all developing phase-change memory products.

IBM and its partners developed a prototype PRAM chip that runs 500 times faster than flash memory while using half as much power to write data to a memory cell, making it useful for small devices where battery life is a worry for users. However, mass-producing the fine circuitry of the prototype chip will require technology that might not be around until 2015.

Ovonyx says phase-change memory can be used as a cost-effective replacement for DRAM (dynamic RAM) and embedded memory, as well as flash.

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