Freescale spins out its MRAM chip business

I wish my memory could get this kind of upgrade. Today, a new kind of chip memory is going to get a boost with the launch of a new venture spin-out company. If it succeeds, we’ll be carrying around much more responsive, instantly available portable gadgets in the future.

MRAM has been in the research labs for a long time as a chip technology that has the combined advantages of both temporary and permanent memory. But it has always been poised on the cusp, not quite ready yet to tip the scales in multibillion-dollar industries.

But Freescale Semiconductor is making a big move today by spinning out a venture-funded MRAM chip company, EverSpin Technologies. The spin-out is backed by New Venture Partners, Sigma Partners, Lux Capital, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and Epic Ventures. The first round investment is $20 million.

MRAM stands for magnetoresistive Random Access Memory. MRAM uses tiny magnets combined with conventional silicon circuits to create a combo memory. It is a single chip with the speed of static RAM and the permanence, or non-volatility, of flash memory. Typically, flash is slow and permanent, while SRAM is fast but temporary.

With MRAM powering a portable device, you could have zero boot time, or “instant on.” And you wouldn’t lose any data if the device suddenly lost power. Freescale will transfer its MRAM technology to the start-up and keep an equity position in the new venture.

The new venture means a couple of things. It will require an investment that is bigger than what Freescale alone could pour into the start-up. But it also means that the technology is closer to commercialization after years of research. Lisa Su, chief technology officer at Freescale, said the move will accelerate the adoption of MRAM across a bunch of uses. Freescale already has a slate of MRAM products in the market and EverSpin will supply products to Freescale’s MRAM customers.

MRAM hasn’t yet taken over the world because the products still have smaller storage capacities (four megabits) for the moment. As the manufacturing improves and memory capactities rise, MRAM will be able to wrest more applications away from traditional memory.

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