Startup Secures $11M Funding for SOT-MRAM

Article By : Anne-Françoise Pelé

France-based Antaios announced it has raised $11 million in funding for developing SOT-MRAM that can potentially replace embedded non-volatile memory and SRAM cache in microprocessors and SoCs...

Memory is fundamental to all computing systems, and the stakes are high. Antaios, a France-based developer of memory technology based upon the Spin-Orbit Torque phenomenon, announced it has raised $11 million in funding to increase the pace of innovation and seal new strategic partnerships. Investor and partner, Applied Materials supports the startup’s development of a low power, high performance, and high endurance memory technology. There has never been more pressure on memory to meet the demands of new applications — everything from edge computing and IoT to smarter phones and smarter cars. The embedded memory market is taking off and has the potential to reach $1.2 billion by 2024, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 295 percent over the 2018-2024 timeframe, according to market research firm Yole Développement. MRAM promises life beyond embedded flash, and next-generation memories such as Spin-Orbit Torque Magnetic Random Access Memory have made significant progress in the last few years. SOT-MRAM Spin-Orbit Torque Magnetic Random Access Memory (SOT-MRAM) is the latest generation of MRAM. In the phenomenon known as Spin-Orbit Torque, an electrical current flowing through a bilayer consisting of a heavy metal and a ferromagnet gives a jolt to the magnetization in the ferromagnet.
(Source: Antaios)
“STT was already a major improvement compared to the original MRAM (aka Toggle MRAM) that had been marketed since the late 90’s by Everspin Technologies,” commented Jean-Pierre Nozières, founder and CEO of Antaios, specifying that STT is fully scalable (Toggle isn’t), can operate at lower power and higher speed, but suffers from a limited write endurance (unless giving up on speed and/or retention), and is prone to read disturb. Consequently, “STT-MRAM is mostly deployed today as an embedded non-volatile memory (NVM) replacing embedded (NOR) flash in microcontrollers at sub-28 technology nodes, for code and/or data storage.” SOT, Nozières added, exhibits built-infinite endurance (since there is no voltage stress during write cycle) and limited risk of read disturb (since read and write current paths are different), all with further improved write cycle time (limited to the layout, not the device) and similar, fully scalable, write power. “It is the one and only NVM technology that offers simultaneously high speed and infinite endurance, two key attributes for cache memory applications,” he commented. “SOT-MRAM is therefore the ideal candidate to replace both embedded flash and embedded SRAM in almost every chip, from microcontrollers to microprocessors, ASICs and SoCs.” Nozières said he thinks the long-awaited prospect of storage/cache fusion in the so-called “eXecute-in-Place (XiP) architecture could become a reality with SOT-MRAM. Antaios is the first startup company solely dedicated to the development of SOT-MRAM. It was spun off from CNRS Spintec Laboratory, a world leader in spintronics research, “after close to a decade of research in the lab, topped by a large EU project”, said Nozières. The company was incorporated in 2017 after becoming the recipient of the 2016 Grand Prize, an innovation contest organized by i-Lab for early-stage or soon-to-be startups. “After a slow start limited to the core founders’ team, Antaios started ramping up early 2019, once key partnerships were established.”
Jean-Pierre Nozières
A physicist by training, Nozières has extensive experience within the memory industry. He co-founded the Spintec laboratory and founded four MRAM-related startups: Antaios, Crocus Technology, eVaderis, and Hprobe. He has also worked at the CNRS Louis Néel Laboratory, IBM Almaden Research Center and Applied Magnetics Corporation. Innovation and partnerships Confirming that the 11-million funding is the company’s first round of financing, Nozières said Antaois primarily intends to accelerate innovation. The team has proven the efficiency of the SOT-MRAM technology, but the objective now is to test and achieve its scalability. “After a couple of years working at the device level, our intention now is to implement our technology into an engineering test chip built from 22/28nm CMOS, which is today’s sweet spot for MRAM, at scale 1 (e.g. on leading edge, 12’’ equipment) with our strategic partner Applied Materials and a selected foundry.” This engineering test chip, Nozières highlighted, will lay down the foundations for a full memory, compiler-friendly, test chip to come later. In parallel, the Grenoble-based startup aims to develop new strategic partnerships. “Our objective is to sign joint development and/or licensing agreements with Tier-1, strategic, industry players with whom we could move to the next step, i.e. towards a full memory test chip and productization,” commented Nozières. “We are actively working on selecting the best partners to continue our development.” This round of financing was led by French capital firms Innovacom and Sofimac Innovation, together with Silicon Valley-based Applied Ventures, the venture capital arm of Applied Materials, the French public investment bank Bpifrance and other bank partners. This article was first published on EE Times Europe

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