Murray Hill, NJ -- Lucent Technologies announced today it has granted Taiwan-based Winbond Electronics Corp., a worldwide license to manufacture a novel flash memory chip, which requires 10 times less power to program than conventional flash memory chips.
Lucent's new technology, known as CHISEL (Channel Initiated Secondary Electron Injection), will allow electronic devices, such as cellular phones and laptop computers, to operate with smaller and longer lasting batteries.
CHISEL also needs less power during the normal "read" operation of electronic devices, and the amount of power savings will depend on system hardware and applications. While lower power typically means longer read access times in flash memory products, CHISEL reverses that effect, resulting in both lower power requirements and faster read-access times.
The CHISEL technology, which will use a design process producing features that are 0.35 micron and smaller, was developed by Bell Labs, which is Lucent's research and development arm. The smaller features -- as small as 0.1 micron -- will be possible because of CHISEL's lower power requirements; for instance, the higher voltages in today's flash memory products would "punch" through the smaller features, resulting in leakage of current.
Flash memory chips are semiconductor memory devices. They are electrically programmable and erasable and retain their data even when not attached to power supplies. For these reasons, flash memory technology adds more functionality and flexibility to devices that typically rely on Read Only Memory, such as cellular phones for storing code and laptop computers for running applications and storing data.
"Lucent's breakthrough will dramatically reduce power consumption and accelerate read-access speeds, which will address two concerns that have limited the use of flash memory for storage applications," said Alan Niebel, director of non-volatile memory research at Semico Research Corporation.
Besides the licensing agreement, Lucent and Winbond have agreed to jointly develop stand-alone and embedded flash memory products using CHISEL for a period of two years. It is expected that both Lucent and Winbond will offer products that use the CHISEL technology.
"Today's licensing agreement demonstrates Lucent's determination to quickly move semiconductor innovations from the laboratory into the marketplace," said Mark Pinto, chief technical officer at Lucent Technologies' Microelectronics Group.
"CHISEL's low-voltage operation is a revolutionary step forward for system-level ICs that combine embedded memory with digital logic and other circuit elements on a single silicon chip. As a result, this technology will lead to more powerful and versatile circuits for wireless and other communications applications."
The CHISEL technology evolved from research by Pinto and Bell Labs researcher Jeff Bude. Initially, the researchers were trying to understand how electrons behave in transistors smaller than 0.1 microns, but they soon discovered a method to generate high-energy electrons. The researchers, along with Bell Labs developers in Lucent's Microelectronics Group, then adapted that approach to develop the flash memory cells.
In conventional flash memory cells, a high voltage accelerates electrons so they can pass over an energy barrier to the cell's central storage area, where the electrons store data and are insulated from the remainder of the cell. In the CHISEL cells, however, lower voltages and less power are needed because the electrons acquire energy more efficiently. Specifically, the stream of electrons displaces "secondary electrons," which are then re-accelerated twice -- each time picking up more energy -- before being stored.
To develop this technique, the researchers developed new memory cell structures and algorithms to control the electron injection and manage the CHISEL memory array.
According to Archie Yeh, Winbond's vice president, "This technology license with Lucent Technologies marks an important milestone for advancing our non-volatile memory products." Winbond plans to use this advanced flash memory technology to develop high-density (16 megabits and above), low-voltage and high-performance, flash memory products. Expected product introduction will be in early 2000.
CHISEL is another example of Lucent's leadership in flash memory technology. In August, Lucent's Microelectronics Group introduced high-speed flashDSP® technology for use in digital signal processors operating at up to 80 million instructions per second. Lucent's flashDSP® has a read access speed that is faster than any other flash memory DSP product on the market.
Lucent Technologies (LU) designs, builds, and delivers a wide range of public and private networks, communications systems and software, consumer and business telephone systems and microelectronics components. Bell Labs is the research and development arm of the company. For more information about Lucent Technologies, headquartered at Murray Hill, N.J., visit our website at www.lucent.com.
Winbond Electronics Corporation is the largest branded IC company in Taiwan. Winbond's product portfolio covers PC and peripheral-related ICs, consumer electronics ICs, multimedia ICs, SRAMs, flash and other non-volatile memory and DRAMs. Winbond has a leading position in Taiwan and East Asia in telephone dialers, PC I/O controllers, SRAMs, speech synthesizers and MPEG decoders. Winbond has three wafer fabs in operation, with current technologies ranging from 0.8um to 0.25um. Winbond also provides certain wafer capacity to serve foundry customers. Winbond is based in Hsinchu Science-Based Park, Taiwan, and has sales offices in Taipei, Hong Kong and San Jose, California. World Wide Web home page: http://www.winbond.com.tw
Materials provided by Bell Labs - Lucent Technologies. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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