Micron Ships its Advanced DRAM 1-beta Node, Targeting Mobile
Claiming it as the industry’s most advanced DRAM technology, Micron Technology has released its advanced 1-beta DRAM node.
Semiconductor scaling has notably slowed down in pace over the past decade, but seemingly no technology has scaled slower than DRAM. Due to the physical constraints of the technology, DRAM has lagged behind significantly as compared to VLSI.
Still, the industry is working to change this narrative and come up with innovative solutions in architecture and manufacturing to enable decreased DRAM node sizes. Micron Technology is widely considered a leader in the DRAM field, and as such, they’ve been at the forefront of this effort. Yesterday, Micron announced the release of its advanced 1-beta DRAM node.
16 Gb LPDDR5X die with 1-beta
In this article, we’ll talk about the new node, the benefits it brings, and the unexpected way Micron achieved this feat. We also share some insights from Thy Tran, Micron’s Vice President of DRAM Process Integration who presented at Micron’s press conference for the announcement yesterday. Thy Tran was featured in an All About Circuits article in our Women’s History Month series earlier this year.
Micron’s 1-Beta Node
Micron announced that it has begun shipping qualification samples of its next-generation 1-beta DRAM node. Following on the heels of Micron’s 1-alpha node, 1-beta is a technological improvement that enables higher-performance DRAM.
According to Micron, the new node is responsible for achieving a 15% power efficiency improvement and more than a 35% bit density improvement as compared to previous generations in the form of a 16 Gb capacity per die.
Micron’s new 1-beta node offers increased per-die capacity while lowering power consumption.
The first application of the 1-beta node comes in Micron’s next-generation low-power double data rate 5X (LPDDR5X) mobile memory. The technology, which is currently shipping in samples to mobile designers, is a 16 Gb offering and is said to deliver speeds up to 8.5 Gbps.
Along with the power savings from scaling, Micron also claims that their new LPDDR5x also saves power through the implementation of JEDEC-enhanced dynamic voltage and frequency scaling.
According to Micron, they envision the applications of their new 1-beta DRAM to include mobile as well as real-time services such as autonomous vehicles and data centers.
Bypassing EUV Manufacturing
One unique aspect of the 1-beta node is how Micron got there. While most of the industry is turning towards extreme ultraviolet (EUV) manufacturing techniques for node scaling, Micron has found a way to achieve 1-beta without EUV at all.
Instead, Micron leverages a proprietary nanomanufacturing technique that is based on conventional lithography. The technique includes advanced multi-patterning and immersion capabilities to ensure that these tiny features can be produced with extremely high precision. According to Micron, this manufacturing process is ready for mass production.
Thy Tran puts Micron’s achievement into perspective. “Every time we seem to think that we can't squeeze out another node, we make it happen,” she says. “It is truly remarkable. With each node, with each processing unit, the semiconductor industry has been shrinking devices every year or two for decades. However, as the chip has grown smaller, defining the circuit patterns on wafers requires literally challenging the laws of physics.”
“For Micron, where there's a will, there's a way. We're proud of our strategy to only deploy EUV at the right time, when the economics make sense and the performance makes sense. So, we’re able to innovate our multi-patterning techniques even further to avoid EUV.”
To accomplish this technology milestone, Tran says that Micron’s process controls for the critical layers are literally at the angstrom level. “This is where we literally mean that every angstrom counts,” she says. “Not only do we have to innovate to make something possible just once or twice, we have to develop processes that are repeatable and nearly perfect across 10+ steps in high volume manufacturing day in and day out.”
Pushing the Industry Forward
By staving off the need for EUV, Micron is proving that there is still more juice that we can squeeze out of more conventional manufacturing processes. This not only provides optimism for the future of DRAM scaling without the need for exotic new technologies, but it also suggests that the ceiling for DRAM scaling may be higher than originally expected.
According to Micron, mass production of the new 1-beta node will begin once current devices pass qualification procedures.
All images used courtesy of Micron Technology