Panasonic to Begin Volume Production of ReRAM-equipped Microcomputers

Aug 1, 2013
Jyunichi Oshita, Nikkei BP Semiconductor Research
A 200mm wafer on which the ReRAM-equipped microcomputers are formed
A 200mm wafer on which the ReRAM-equipped microcomputers are formed
[Click to enlarge image]
Packaged products
Packaged products
[Click to enlarge image]

Automotive & Industrial Systems Company of Panasonic Corp will start volume production of the "MN101LR" series of 8-bit microcomputers equipped with ReRAM in August 2013.

The company expects that they will be used for portable healthcare devices such as blood pressure and activity meters, security devices including fire alarms, wearable sensors, sensor devices and contactless IC smart cards. It will start volume production at the 0.18μm line supporting 200mm wafers in the Tonami area of its Hokuriku Plant at a monthly rate of one million units.

Panasonic has already acquired more than 9 customers. And products using the MN101LR series are expected to hit the market within 2013. ReRAM is a next-generation nonvolatile memory, and the development race for it is fierce worldwide. Panasonic will be the first company that starts volume production of ReRAM.

ReRAM is a nonvolatile memory that stores data by using the oxidation-reduction reaction in a metal-oxide film. Compared with flash memory, which is the mainstream memory to be mounted on microcomputers, it enables to rewrite data at higher speeds and with lower power consumptions. In consideration of those characteristics, Panasonic has been engaged in the development of low-power-consumption microcomputers equipped with ReRAM for battery-powered portable devices, etc.

To sell the microcomputers to device makers, Panasonic plans to emphasize that ReRAM will reduce maintenance frequency (such as replacing batteries) and combine them with energy-harvesting devices to eliminate the need for batteries. The company started to offer a starter kit for evaluating its ReRAM-equipped microcomputers in May 2012.

The 8-bit microcomputers to be mass-produced are the nonvolatile memory-equipped microcomputers that have the smallest power consumption in the industry, Panasonic said. Compared with the company's flash memory-equipped microcomputer, the new microcomputers enable to reduce standby current consumption by about 60% and average current consumption during intermittent operation by about 50%.

With an operating voltage of 3V and operating frequency of 32kHz, its standby current is about 200nA. The minimum operating (reading) voltage is 0.9V. In addition to the low power consumption, the time it takes to rewrite data is about 15μs per byte when the voltage of the power source is 3V, which is 66% shorter than the time it takes to rewrite data in the flash memory-equipped microcomputer.