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Monday, August 13, 2001

FRAM chips next

JAPANESE chipmaking conglomerate Fujitsu Ltd has said it will start volume production next year of chips using fast, durable ferroelectric random access memory (FRAM) for a new generation of multi-purpose smart cards.

The FRAM unit, combined with a processor and other circuitry on a large-scale integration (LSI) chip, would likely be used initially in integrated-circuit cards for public facilities such as libraries and medical centres, although a wide variety of applications was possible, Fujitsu executives said. "This is an 'idea-product', so a lot will depend on what ideas our customers can come up with," said Takanori Jinno, a marketing executive in Fujitsu's electronic device division. Potential applications run the gamut from cellphone memory to automatic fare or toll payment to financial transactions.

Several semiconductor manufacturers are looking at FRAM as a potentially promising memory technology, combining the endurance of DRAM chips and flash memory's ability to retain its data when power is shut off.