Freescale is shipping what is claimed to be the first commercial Magnetoresistive Random Access Memory (MRAM) chip. MRAM, which combines magnetic materials with conventional silicon circuitry, can deliver RAM-like speeds, flash-like nonvolatility, and unlimited "endurance," according to the company.
In contrast to conventional flash EPROM technology, MRAMs offer unlimited rewritability, a characteristic known as "endurance." Due to their limited endurance capabilities, flash memory chips require complex "wear leveling" algorithms, which are generally implemented within a device's flash filesystem software. Such precautions are unnecessary with MRAM, however.
Additionally, unlike flash memory, MRAM offers fast read/write cycle times -- currently 35 nanoseconds. Hence, MRAM chips can be used to implement nonvolatile cache memory, potentially resulting in more reliable computers. Overall, MRAM is expected to enable "new classes of electronic products offering dramatic advances in size, cost, power consumption, and system performance," Freescale says.