IBM and Micron Technology have confirmed that they are beginning to produce a new memory chip based on technology which could boost memory speeds 15-fold. It has been announced that the new technology will be used to make a Hybrid Memory Cube chip.
The chip will be commercially manufactured by Micron, the largest manufacturer of memory chips in the US. IBM, meanwhile, has announced that it plans to manufacture and supply the "controller" silicon, which will ultimately be used in the memory and the 3D-chip technology.
The long-term ambition of the project is to realize the full performance potential of DRAM (dynamic random access memory). By doing so, it is hoped that the technology will resolve a growing problem referred to as the "memory wall" – a data channel bottleneck created by multi-core processors seeking access to memory.
Initially, however, the technology will be used in areas such as networking and high-performance computing. But over time, Micron and IBM feel that the technology will eventually make its way to consumer products.
IBM's technology is based on through-silicon vias (TSV), which use vertical conduits to electrically connect a stack of individual chips. It has been confirmed that the technology will be combined with Micron's state-of-the-art DRAM processes.
In a statement, the world's second most valuable technology firm explained: "IBM's advanced TSV chip-making process enables Micron's Hybrid Memory Cube to achieve speeds 15 times faster than today's technology."
The firm added that while current state-of-the-art devices deliver 12.8GBps (gigabytes per second), Hybrid Memory Cube chips are able to offer speeds of 128GBps.. Furthermore, IBM said that the Cube requires 70 percent less energy to transfer data and also offers a more compact design. It is, in fact, around ten percent of the footprint of conventional memory.
Micron is the founding member of the Hybrid Memory Cube Consortium, which includes Altera, Intel, Open Silicon, Samsung and Xilinx.
IBM said that it will manufacture its Hybrid Memory Cube components at its semiconductor plant in New York. To this end, the firm revealed that it will use its 32-nanometer high-K metal gate process technology.
"Our ability to use TSVs in commercial ... production and integrating other chip technology, such as high-speed communications, is a key advancement in the move to 3D semiconductor manufacturing," explained IBM Fellow Subu Iyer.
Although IBM has refused to specify a date, it is speculated that the chips will start shipping in the second half of 2012.