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Magnetoresistive Random Access Memory (MRAM). Menelaos – Charalampos Tsigkourakos Christos Trompoukis. Outline. Introduction Magnetic Core RAM Magnetoresistance Giant Magnetoresistance (GMR) Tunnel Magnetoresistance (TMR) Spin Valve MRAM Fixed Layer Reading Process Writing Process

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magnetoresistive random access memory mram

Magnetoresistive Random Access Memory (MRAM)

Menelaos – Charalampos Tsigkourakos

Christos Trompoukis

  • Introduction
  • Magnetic Core RAM
  • Magnetoresistance
    • Giant Magnetoresistance (GMR)
    • Tunnel Magnetoresistance (TMR)
    • Spin Valve
  • MRAM
    • Fixed Layer
    • Reading Process
    • Writing Process
    • Characteristics
  • Other RAM Technologies
  • MRAM Vs Other RAM Technologies
  • Future MRAM Improvements
  • MRAM Status
  • Why can’t your pc simply turn on like your television?
  • MRAM uses magnetism rather than electrical power to store bits of data.
    • No refresh is needed to retain the data.
    • For users of laptops and other mobile devices, suchas MP3 players and cell phones, MRAM is the holy grail of longer battery life.
magnetic core ram
Magnetic Core RAM

By the early 1960’s, Magnetic Core RAM became largely universal as main memory, replacing drum memory

magnetic core ram1
Magnetic Core RAM

The memory cellsconsist of wiredthreaded tiny ferrite rings (cores).

X and Y lines to apply the magnetic filed.

Sense/Inhibit line to ‘read’ the current pulse when the polarization of the magnetic field changes.

giant magnetoresistance gmr
Giant Magnetoresistance (GMR)

Two thin films of alteringferromagnetic materials and a non-magnetic layer-spacer.

10-80% decrease in electrical resistance

tunnel magnetoresistance tmr
Tunnel Magnetoresistance (TMR)

Two thin films of alteringferromagnetic materials and an insulating spacer.

Fe/MgO/Fe junctions reach over 200%decrease in electrical resistance at room temperature

600 (room temperature)-1100 (4.2 K) % TMR at junctions of CoFeB/MgO/CoFeB

tunnel magnetoresistance tmr1
Tunnel Magnetoresistance (TMR)

In ferromagnetic metals electronic bands are exchange split which implies different densities of states at the Fermi energy for the up- and down-spin electrons.

tunnel magnetoresistance tmr2
Tunnel Magnetoresistance (TMR)

Spin of electrons is conserved in the tunneling process.

Tunneling of up- and down-spin electrons are two independent processes → conductance occurs in the two independent spin channels.

Electrons originating from one spin state of the first ferromagnetic film are accepted by unfilled states of the same spin of the second film.

spin valve gmr
Spin Valve GMR

Hard layer: magnetization is fixed.

Soft layer: magnetization is free to rotate.

Thin non-ferromagnetic spacer ~3 nm.

Spacer materialCu (copper) andferromagnetic layers NiFe (permalloy).

This configuration used in hard drives.

magnetic tunnel junction mtj
Magnetic Tunnel Junction (MTJ)

Commonly used insulating materials are Aluminum oxide (Al2O3) and crystalline Magnesium oxide (MgO)


One of the two plates is a permanent magnet set to a particular polarity, the other's field will change to match that of an external field.

mram fixed layer
MRAM: Fixed layer

The bottom layers give an effect of fixed (pinned) layer dueto interlayer exchange coupling between ferromagnetic and spacer layer of synthetic antiferromagnetic.

mram reading process
MRAM: Reading process

Transistor is “ON”

Measuring of electrical resistance of a small sense current from a supply line through the cell to the ground.

mram writing process
MRAM: Writing process

Transistor is “OFF”

When current is passed through the write lines, an induced magnetic field is created at the junction, which alters the polarity of the free layer.

mram writing process1
MRAM: Writing process

In order to change the polarity of the free layer, both fields are necessary.

Only the bit inwhich current is applied in both hard and easy axis will be written.The other bits will remain half-select.

mram characteristics
MRAM: Characteristics
  • Non-volatility
  • Infinite endurance
  • High speed performance
  • Low cost
other ram technologies
Other RAM Technologies


Each bit of data is stored in a separate capacitor within an integrated circuit


  • Volatile
  • The highest density RAM currently available
  • The least expensive one
  • Moderately fast
other ram technologies1
Other RAM Technologies


Each bit is stored on four transistors that form two cross-coupled inverters


  • Expensive
  • Volatile
  • Fast
  • Low power consumption
  • Less dense than DRAM
other ram technologies2
Other RAM Technologies

Flash RAM

Stores information in an array of memory cells made from floating-gate transistors


  • Cheap
  • Non-volatile
  • Slow
  • Enormously durable
  • Limited endurance
mram vs other ram technologies1
MRAM Vs Other RAM Technologies

MRAM combines the best characteristics of DRAM, SRAM and Flash RAM

future mram improvements
Future MRAM Improvements

Thermal Assisted Switching

  • Solves the first-generation selectivity and stability problems
  • Cost-effective and scalable memory technology to at least the 32nm node
future mram improvements1
Future MRAM Improvements

Spin Torque Transfer

  • No applied magnetic field
  • Utilizes heavily spin polarized current
  • The magnetization of nano-elements is flipped back and forth
  • Still has challenges in basic physics and materials to overcome
mram status
MRAM Status
  • 2003 - A 128 kbit MRAM chip was introduced, manufactured with a 180 nm lithographic process
  • 2004 - Infineon unveiled a 16-Mbit prototype, manufactured with a 180 nm lithographic process
  • 2005 - Sony announced the first lab-produced spin-torque-transfer MRAM
  • 2007 - Tohoku University and Hitachi developed a prototype 2 Mbit Non-Volatile RAM Chip employing spin-transfer torque switching
  • 2008 - Scientists in Germany have developed next-generation MRAM that is said to operate with write cycles under 1 ns.
  • 2009 - Hitachi and Tohoku University demonstrated a 32-Mbit spin-transfer torque RAM (SPRAM)