The Silicon Review
‘Delivering a new generation of super fast, ultra-high-density and extremely low power memory.’
Nantero, Inc. is a nanotechnology company which develops semiconductor products using carbon nanotubes in the United States and internationally. As the world leader in carbon nanotube electronics, Nantero has developed a new generation of memory called NRAM® (non-volatile random access memory). This new super-fast, ultra-high density memory replaces both DRAM and flash in a single chip, while also delivering the low power, high speed, reliability, and endurance needed to drive the next wave of electronics innovation. Founded in 2001, Nantero is based in Woburn, Massachusetts.
The Future of Memory
NRAM memory is as fast as DRAM, non-volatile like flash, and can be used in standard CMOS fabs with existing tools. This will enable manufacturers to quickly and cost-effectively migrate to a new generation of memory, which has become a critical requirement as flash and DRAM technology near their end of life.
Nantero’s NRAM® has applications in a wide range of markets - from consumer electronics, mobile devices and wearable technology to automotive, industrial and enterprise networks and systems.
Advancements in Nanotechnology
Nantero’s NRAM® leverages leading-edge research in nanotechnology and the innovative use of carbon nanotube (CNT) technology. Considered one of the strongest materials known to man, CNTs possess unique structural and electrical properties that make it ideal for delivering a new generation of super fast, ultra-high-density and extremely low power memory.
With one carbon nanotube being just 1/50,000th the diameter of a human hair, these tiny cylinders are 50 times stronger than steel, half the density of aluminum, and have better thermal and electrical conductivity properties than any other material scientists are aware of today.
While the advantages of CNTs have long been touted in the industry, Nantero is the first company to actively develop semiconductor products using this technology in a production CMOS fab. This breakthrough achievement is now protected as part of the company’s leading patent portfolio, which consists of more than 170 US patents issued to date and more than 200 patents pending.
The NRAM Advantage
Nantero’s NRAM is as fast as and denser than DRAM, nonvolatile like flash, has essentially zero power consumption in standby mode and 160x lower write energy per bit than flash, and is highly resistant to environmental forces (heat even up to 300 degrees C, cold, magnetism, radiation, vibration). NRAM is compatible with existing CMOS fabs without needing any new tools or processes, and it is scalable even to below 5nm. Given that it requires a small number of process steps and only one mask layer, NRAM can be fabricated at low cost, and is compatible with both 3D multilayer architectures and MLC operation. This makes NRAM the ideal solution for the next generation of memory technology for both standalone and embedded applications.
NRAM is based on forming a film of CNTs that are deposited onto a standard silicon substrate that contains an underlying cell select device and array lines (typically transistors or diodes) that interface the NRAM switch. Figure 1 is a SEM image of the deposited film (or fabric) of crossed nanotubes that can be either touching or slightly separated depending on their position.
The NRAM acts as a resistive non-volatile random access memory NVRAM and can be placed in two or more resistive modes depending on the resistive state of the CNT fabric. When the CNTs are not in contact the resistance state of the fabric is high and represents a “0” state (see Figure 2). When the CNTs are brought into contact, the resistance state of the fabric is low and represents a “1” state.
Meet the Expert
Greg Schmergel, Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO: Before Nantero, Greg Schmergel was Senior Vice President, Corporate Strategy for About, Inc., at the time the 5th largest Web property. Previously he was President and CEO of ExpertCentral.com, Inc. Greg founded ExpertCentral.com to provide consumers and small businesses with access to thousands of experts to use as an online resource for important questions on a wide variety of topics (later acquired by About, Inc.).
Before that, he was a Case Team Leader for Bain & Company and held a senior position at TowerGroup, which he helped start (acquired by Reuters). Greg stays active in supporting the entrepreneurship and business community including being a guest speaker at entrepreneurial classes and groups, a past judge in MIT business plan competitions, a Board member on the Mass Technology Leadership Council, Venture Partner at Rubicon Venture Capital, member of the Board of Trustees of the Lahey Hospital & Medical Center and of the Lahey Clinic Foundation and a judge in the MassChallenge entrepreneurship program.
He holds an AB magna cum laude from Harvard University and an MBA from the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration. Greg was selected as the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award winner in New England, in the Emerging Technology category, 2006.