January 1, 2014 2:00 am JST

Toshiba, SK Hynix aim to lead charge in next-gen memory

TOKYO -- Toshiba and South Korea's SK Hynix will begin joint production of next-generation memory chips as early as fiscal 2016, bringing them to market ahead of U.S. firm Micron Technology, The Nikkei learned Wednesday.

     The partners are working on MRAMs (magnetoresistive random access memory), which retain information even when power is turned off. The new chips will offer 10 times the storage capacity but consume only two-thirds the power of DRAMs, which are widely used in personal computers, smartphones and other equipment.

     Replacing these regular memory chips with MRAMs is expected to lengthen the battery life of equipment and speed transfers of large volumes of data, such as video files. They will also pave the way for smaller batteries and other components, boosting the development of wearable devices such as eyeglass and watch computers.

     Toshiba and SK Hynix agreed to jointly develop MRAMs in 2011, and hope to begin shipping prototypes made at SK Hynix's main semiconductor fabrication plant outside Seoul next fiscal year. Plans call for the chips to be mass-produced in South Korea, and the duo may form a joint venture if demand warrants. An exclusive fabrication line may be set up in Japan or South Korea at a cost of 100 billion yen ($940 million) or so.

     Currently, two other camps are working to commercialize MRAMs. Micron is developing MRAM technologies with roughly 20 American and Japanese firms, including Tokyo Electron, with an eye on beginning mass production in 2018. South Korea's Samsung Electronics is also in the hunt.