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UK startup wants to turn the RRAM dream into reality

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What just happened? Brought to public attention by HP more than a decade ago, resistive RAM technology (also known as ReRAM or RRAM) has largely been ignored by the industry. The few commercial implementations that did make it out failed to meet expectations, but a UK startup is now planning to give it another try after a successful funding campaign.

Intrinsic Semiconductor Technologies is a UK startup founded in 2017 by researchers from University College London (UCL). The company is working on a new ReRAM technology, and it has now collected enough funds to turn the failed promise of non-volatile RAM into a proper business opportunity for innovative, single-chip computing solutions.

ReRAM is a commercial implementation of memristor technology, which was described in 1971 as the “missing link” of a theoretical quartet of fundamental electrical components next to resistor, capacitor, and inductor. A “memristive system” is a resistor with memory capabilities, as it can change resistance when an electric current is applied and it can remember its state when power is cut off.

In theory, ReRAM chips could provide fast data storage capabilities while having low energy requirements. HP tried to build commercially viable solutions based on memristors more than a decade ago, but the company ultimately failed. Competing RRAM technologies like 3D XPoint were also short-lived, promising exceptional performance levels and delivering very little on early commercial expectations.

Intrinsic says its newly implemented ReRAM technology solves almost all the issues with earlier memristive solutions. The company has secured £7 million ($8.5 million) in a funding round led by Octopus Ventures and other investors, plus £1 million granted by the UK government’s innovation agency (Innovate UK).

Building upon more than a decade of research on memristors at UCL, Intrinsic’s ReRAM tech is seemingly better than previous solutions as it can be manufactured with standard semiconductor materials like silicon dioxide. Intrinsic’s ReRAM is CMOS complaint and should be more cost effective for manufacturing companies, which could use existing machinery to spit ReRAM memory chips out.

The UK company also says its ReRAM solution is easier to integrate with logic circuitry commonly found in CPUs, while traditional Flash memory doesn’t offer the same integration convenience. According to Intrinsic CEO Mark Dickinson, the new RRAM tech has the potential to “become the backbone for the next generation of edge and IoT computers,” just when “data hungry intelligent applications” are becoming more and more prevalent.

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