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What comes after flash? Weebit Nano hopes its ReRAM will

Weebit Nano’s ReRAM stores bits by building resistive filaments and promises a 1,000x speed boost over flash in chips that can store data for years and is well-suited to edge uses

Israeli startup Weebit Nano reckons its technology is a prime candidate to succeed flash solid-state drive (SSD). It is deep into its development schedule – with some productisation in the pipeline – for its silicon oxide ReRAM memory, which it claims is 1,000x faster, uses 1,000x less energy and lasts 100x longer than NAND flash.

“We are going to develop our products a stage at a time,” said CEO Coby Hanoch, speaking to ComputerWeekly.com’s French sister website LeMagIT.

“At first our technology will be integrated with other vendor’s chips in on-board equipment, then we plan to sell independent components, still aiming at the embedded component market.

“Components for the datacentre disk market will come last because we think the embedded component market is the least risky area to launch into,” he added.

Weebit is counting on big orders from China, where demand for flash storage is four or five times greater than local production capacity. “The target market is estimated at $82bn by 2023,” said Hanoch.

Among its prospects, XTX Technology – a China-based memory maker –successfully tested integration of ReRAM circuits with its products in December 2019. Currently, it aims to equip components for industrial robots that need to process data locally and need persistent storage to do so by the end of the year.

The goal is to see Weebit Nano used as an alternative to NOR flash components that are currently used for on-board firmware in machine tools.

LETI partnership

ReRAM – or resistive RAM – uses nano-metallic filaments that are charged or lack a charge to constitute bits of information. Unlike in a flash cell, where the mechanism is like the opening or closing of a door, the filaments break and are re-woven to trap the information in a more durable way.

“This technology allows our components to be very resistive. They are capable of keeping data intact for 10 years at a temperature of 150°C,” said Hanoch.

Above all, a key attribute of ReRAM is the ability to be easily manufactured in factories that produce NAND flash circuits today.

In developing ReRAM, Weebit has leaned heavily on the expertise of LETI (Laboratoire d’Électronique et de Technologie de l’Information), based in Grenoble, France.

This section of the French centre for atomic and alternative energy research has a global reputation in micro-electronic and nanotechnology, and Weebit Nano has benefitted from its ability to help develop its prototypes and hopes to gain from its 300-plus contacts that may want to implement its products.

Collaboration with LETI has another objective – namely, that both organisations intend to make ReRAM the best-suited to hardware for machine learning training workloads in datacentres.

“The structure of our memory, of filaments bathed in an oxide and the form the silicon takes, are the closest thing to the structure of synapses in the brain,” said Hanoch, who explained that makes it possible to write neural network algorithms “ that emulate the brain rather than simulate it”.

LETI and Weebit Nano demonstrated a solution that ran the Spiking Neural Network algorithm more rapidly than is possible with DRAM and while consuming less energy at Memory Summit 2019.

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