In October 2008, I had the chance of interviewing Vincent Chun from Spin Transfer Technologies. Vincent
Chun is the executive in charge at Spin Transfer Technologies. He is
also a Director of Allied Minds, the investment firm that provided
pre-seed funding for STT. Dr. Chun has 23 years of experience in
science, technology, and corporate and entrepreneurial business
management. He has a Ph.D. from MIT and an MBA from Kellogg. Spin
Transfer Technologies was jointly formed by Allied Minds and New York
University, using technology developed by Dr. Andrew Kent at NYU’s
* Can you explain your STT-MRAM technology?
Transfer Technologies’ MRAM innovation utilizes a deterministic
mechanism to rotate the magnetization vector of a free magnetic layer.
This is made possible by using an orthogonal orientation between the
magnetization of the pinned and free magnetic layers. Because the
magnetization reversal mechanism does not rely on thermodynamic
processes to initiate the switching, there is no incubation delay – and
the switch time is very short, while the power consumption is very
small compared to spin-transfer techniques used by others. We call our
technology Orthogonal Spin Transfer MRAM or OST-MRAM for short.
* How many people work in STT currently?
Eight people are involved in STT activities at the moment.
* What is your plan? Do you want to license your IP, or perhaps try to make the chips yourself or with a partner?
We plan to make the chips with one or more partners, but will certainly be open to licensing the technology as well.
* Can you give some information about your financial situation? I
understand that so far you got only a pre-seed investment from AlliedM
Minds and NYU (end of 2007)?
have gotten sufficient funding to prove out the technology and will be
seeking additional funds for commercial product development. This
initial investment is more than the typical seed round.
* Who are you business partners?
far, we have been in technology prove-out mode, and have not approached
potential business partners yet. We will begin reaching out to
potential business partners in the next few months, as we start
communicating our early results.
* If everything goes according to plan, when will we see products with your tech 'inside'?
is too early to say – I’d rather not put out estimates that are
speculative. Much would depend on the next funding round and the
partners that we end up working with. That said, we will likely have
CMOS-integrated OST-MRAM prototypes by 2010.
* What are your thoughts on Freescale's MRAM products?
has demonstrated that there is a great market for MRAM products. They
have paved the way for follow-on MRAM products that use spin transfer
technology, currently being developed by many players.
* Can you compare your STT-RAM with other companies' tech (freescale, crocus, grandis, etc.)?
of the spin-transfer approaches that we are aware of involve stochastic
processes in the magnetic vector switching. That is, the reversal is
driven by both thermal energy and spin-transfer torques. This
invariably requires a high current density and results in a slower,
less reliable memory device. Our approach utilizes an orthogonal
configuration of pinned and free magnetic layers that results in a
deterministic switching process with a very short switching time and
low power consumption.
* Do you think the current world financial situation might effect MRAM development?
believe there will be some impact related to an expected overall market
decline. However, the relative interest in MRAM compared to other
computer memory technologies should not be impacted. The anticipated
end user applications of MRAM products are in business equipment,
laptops, and productivity devices, and not dominated by discretionary
consumer products. Therefore, I believe the impact will be somewhat
proportional to the overall economy. As for Spin Transfer Technologies,
we plan to push ahead aggressively, with the expectation that the
market will have improved by the time we come to market.
* Where do you see MRAM in about 5 years?
would expect to see a number of spin-transfer based MRAM products on
the market, and in an accelerating adoption mode. It will be seen as
the next generation of memory device technology, given its technical
advantages and its ability to consolidate the benefits of current
volatile and non-volatile memory technologies.
* When do you estimate we'll be able to buy a MRAM-on-key or have MRAM in mobile phones or A/V players?
won’t venture a guess, as conventional MRAM took quite some time to
reach the market, and came out at a high price point. It’s really
difficult to predict when the densities and prices will reach the point
where you’ll see them as thumb drives or in consumer electronics. One
thing that is almost certain, is that it will be based on spin-transfer
* Where do you see Spin-Transfer-Technologies in about 5 years?
five years, we expect Spin Transfer Technologies to be actively in the
market, with product either directly offered or through licensing or
other collaborative type arrangements.
Vincent - thank you for this interview. I hope we'll hear more of your STT-MRAM tech soon!
Ron Mertens, mram-info.com, October 2008.