Magnetoresistive random access memory (MRAM) technology

In one of my previous posts, I wrote about racetrack memory and I described them as a new type of non-volatile storage systems which is still under development. Today I aim to introduce magnetoresistive random access memory (MRAM) technology which is a competing idea to racetrack systems. In a MRAM system the data bits are stored as the relative orientation of magnetization of two magnetic layer which are separated by a non-magnetic insulating layer. In each MRAM cell (known as spin valve) one of the two magnetic layer magnetization can freely rotate while the other magnetic layer magnetization orientation is pinned (fixed) to an anti-ferromagnetic layer. There is two possibilities of these two layers magnetization relative directions, including: parallel and anti-parallel alignments. Each of these configuration has a different electrical resistivity that can be detected by a reading lines and interpreted as “0” and “1” bits (the parallel configuration has a lower resistivity). To write the data on each cell there is writing lines where by applying a small magnetic field or a small current the magnetization alignment of free magnetic layer can be altered. The biggest advantage of MRAM is its very fast read/write speed compared to other existing technology, however on the other hand since the magnetic switching needs electrical currant, at the moment its energy consumption is rather high. Therefore the main challenge MRAM face with it, is the ability of fabrication smaller data cells which needs a smaller current (lower energy) for magnetic switching.

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Schematic of a spin valve.


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