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Ferroelectric random-access memory (FRAM, F-RAM or FeRAM) is a form of non-volatile memory similar to DRAM in architecture. However, it makes use of a ferroelectric layer in place of a dielectric layer in order to attain non-volatility. Considered as one potential alternative for non-volatile random-access memory technologies, ferroelectric random-access memory provides the same features as that of flash memory.
In spite of the name, ferroelectric random-access memory does not actually contain any iron. It noramlly uses lead zirconate titanate, though other materials are also sometimes used. Although development of ferroelectric RAM dates back to the early days of semiconductor technology, the first devices based on ferroelectric RAM were produced around 1999. A ferroelectric RAM memory cell is comprised of a bit line as well as a capacitor connected to a plate. The binary values 1 or 0 are stored based on the orientation of the dipole within the capacitor. The orientation of the dipole can be set and reversed with the help of voltage.
Compared to more established technologies such as flash and DRAM, ferroelectric RAM is not highly used. Ferroelectric RAM is sometimes embedded into CMOS-based chips to help MCUs have their own ferroelectric memories. This helps in having fewer stages for incorporating the memory into the MCUs, resulting in significant cost savings. It also brings another advantage of having low power consumption compared to other alternatives, which greatly helps MCUs, where power consumption has always been a barrier.
There are many benefits associated with ferroelectric RAM. Compared with flash storage, it has lower power consumption and faster write performance. Compared to similar technologies, ferroelectric RAM provides more write-erase cycles. There is also greater data reliability with ferroelectric RAM.
There are certain drawbacks associated with ferroelectric RAM. It has lower storage capacities compared to flash devices and is also expensive. Compared to DRAM and SRAM, ferroelectric RAM stores less data in the same space. Also, due to the destructive read process of ferroelectric RAM, a write-after-read architecture is required.
Ferroelectric RAM is used in many applications such as instrumentation, medical equipment and industrial microcontrollers.