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While the competition is hard at work on a 100-core processor, Intel this week reported advances in phase-change memory (PCM), a type of non-volatile memory that is seen as a possible next-generation replacement for flash.

In a joint announcement yesterday with Swiss memory maker Numonyx, the companies said they had demonstrated for the first time the ability to "stack multiple layers of PCM arrays within a single die," significantly increasing the space savings and reducing power consumption related to the technology.

Memory cells consist of a storage element and a selector. Several stacked memory cells make a memory array. By stacking PCM-cell arrays, the companies have demonstrated what they call a phase change memory and switch (PCMS), a vertically integrated memory cell. "The ability to layer or stack arrays of PCMS[es] provides the scalability to higher memory densities while maintaining the performance characteristics of PCM, a challenge that is becoming increasingly more difficult to maintain with traditional memory technologies," according to the statement.

At the center of the advance is the Ovonic Threshold Switch (OTS), which in essence is a thin layer of glass that changes its resistive state depending on the level of current being applied to it. Researchers deployed the thin film in a new way, with the "two-terminal OTS as the selector, matching the physical and electrical properties for PCM scaling." With the compatibility of thin-film PCMS, multiple layers of cross point memory arrays are now possible, the report said, giving way to layered arrays that when combined with CMOS circuits, can be used for decoding, sensing and logic functions.

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