FRAM Technology & Benefits
FRAM is a type of non-volatile RAM that utilizes a ferroelectric film as a capacitor to store data. In contrast to the conventional non-volatile memories like Flash and E²PROM, the content of an FRAM cell is not stored in the form of charge carriers in a ‘floating gate’. The information – logically 0 or 1 – is contained in the polarization of the ferroelectric material lead zirconate titanate, PZT (Pb(ZrTi)O3). This material is placed between two electrodes in the form of a thin film, in a similar way as the structure of a capacitor.
By generating an electric field between the two electrodes, the ferroelectric film will be polarized. Because the polarization remains even after the electric field is removed, the content of the FRAM can be maintained even in absence of power. This non-volatility represents the major advantage of FRAM compared to DRAM.
The non-volatility of FRAM allows the data to be maintained even in the absence of power. As a result, backup battery becomes redundant.
FRAM is 30,000 times faster than E²PROM. Since FRAM operates based on random access, write process can be completed without any delay. Write and Read access times are in the 2–3 digit nanosecond range and comparable with those of RAM. As a result, FRAM is able to complete the writing process even at sudden power outage, thus ensures data integrity.
FRAM provides up to 10 million times higher endurance over E²PROM. The maximum number of write/delete cycles for Flash and E²PROM is between 100,000 and 1 Million. With over 10 trillion write/read cycles (1013), the lifetime of FRAM memory is almost unlimited. Writing/reading access could theoretically take place on a cell for over 300,000 years at one-second intervals.
FRAM consumes significantly lower energy in writing than E²PROM. Since no large charge quantities have to be displaced within FRAM’s operation, charge pumps, which are usually used to generate higher programming voltages, are not necessary with FRAM. Also the extremely short access cycle results in considerably lower energy consumption. As a result, FRAM technology is much more energy efficient than Flash or E²PROM.
There are various ways to utilize Standalone FRAM products.
Standalone FRAM can be used to replace SRAM + backup battery. The fast write access of FRAM allows the data to be saved at unexpected power loss. This saves significant cost related to battery maintenance and avoids environmental issues of the application system.
FRAM can be used for storing settings, configuration and device status information. This information can be used later for activities such as resetting the devices, analyzing the status and activating recovery actions. Byte-wise random access makes memory management more efficient.
This high-speed non-volatile memory runs like a RAM. This gives programmers the flexibility to assign ROM and RAM memory mapping, depending on their needs. End users can program FRAM at the ground level, to customize to their individual preferences. Standalone FRAM allows designers the freedom to explore and employ FRAM in a wide range of designs.
For applications with frequent write accesses, FRAM offers the high write endurance to make “wear leveling” redundant. Customers can save software development efforts and reduce the memory density in this way.
Read more in our FRAM Standalone factsheet (2MB).
Standalone FRAM Product Lineup
Serial Interface (SPI)
Serial Interface (I²C)
FRAM Standalone Application Examples
Smart Metering Needs Smart Memory
The concept of a Smart Grid is being adopted in more and more countries. At the same time, the metering industry is confronted with a major challenge to build reliable smart meters, which can communicate bi-directionally, maintain data integrity even in unstable power networks, and provide real-time logging data. These challenges require, at the end of the value chain, the semiconductor industry to provide smart memories to enable smart solutions. In this context, fast writing speed is needed for reliable data storage before a potential power outage. High endurance of the memory is required for real time logging for the complete life time of the meter without intermediate fast memory. Last but not least, low power consumption is a fundamental requirement for the IC components to reduce operation cost of the metersFRAM meets the challenges for the Smart Memory:
- Fast write to allow data integrity even at sudden power outage
- Reliable and real time data storage for accurate billing
- High write cycle endurance to allow high frequency data logging
- Low energy consumption to reduce operational cost
We offer Standalone FRAM products for a wide range of industrial applications and , factory automation applications.
Examples of the applications can be: rotary encoders, motion control, process monitoring, PLC, CNC, robots, industrial sensors etc.
The following FRAM features provide customers with unique benefits:
- Fast write allows instant status logging with exact time stamp.
- High endurance allows direct storage of logging data into FRAM without involving RAM.
- Efficient memory management that simplifies system architecture and software complexity.
- High temperature FRAM up to 125°C range available for applications in hot environments.
- Extremely low energy consumption suitable even for energy harvesting applications.
IoT / Wearable
IoT and Wearable are two separate market segments. But many of them do share some ways of operation and requirements on memory solutions.
Battery driven system architecture dictates the highest requirement on components: low power consumption.
Most of the products have sensors collecting the data, which need to be stored, analyzed and transferred for further actions. Thus, memories with fast write and high write endurance is beneficial. Especially if applications require reliable data storage, like in case of medical wearable or industrial IoT, FRAM can be the best solution.
Relevant features of FRAM technology for IoT / Wearable:
- Low energy consumption to allow long battery lifetime.
- Fast write and high endurance to allow direct data logging onto the FRAM memory without intermediate RAM storage.
- Fast write ensures reliable data storage even at sudden power outage.
- Small form factor package available: wafer level package.
Many applications in automotive have a self-monitoring function, where system status or sensor data need to be monitored within extremely short time intervals, in order to ensure the correct functioning of the systems. To store these data for analysis, it is extremely important that the memory device can record in real time and has sufficient write endurance during the complete lifetime of the vehicle. FRAM offers exactly the right solution here.
Examples for these applications with self-monitoring functions are:
- Event data recorder
- Battery management.
- Electric power steering
- Automatic Driver Assistance
Relevant features of FRAM technology for automotive applications:
- Fast write ensures data storage before power loss, in order to avoid possible data loss.
- Fast write ensures instant data logging without delay.
- High write endurance allows direct storage into FRAM without any intermediate solution in RAM.
- AEC-Q100 qualified products for high temperature operation available.
Besides that, Infotainment systems can benefit from FRAM technology as well, by shortening the waiting time for data loading as well as reliable storage of last status of the system (e.g. last sound track, last car position).
FRAM Radio Frequency Identity chip (RFID)
With all the benefits FRAM provides, it is possible to build RFID tags with features that no EEPROM based RFID tag can offer. The high writing speed allows to build RFID tags with much higher capacities than with EEPROM. Since tags are usually mounted on moving objects, there is a pain barrier how long a write access can last. With FRAM it is possible to come very close to the theoretical maximum that the RFID wireless protocols offer.
Also it is possible to equip much faster moving targets with RFID by using FRAM based tags. With the high endurance, frequently used tags don’t have to be replaced regularly when the memory wears out. It is almost impossible to reach the endurance limit of an FRAM based tag.
Fujitsu's FRAM memory is available for HF (13.56MHz) and UHF (860MHz-960MHz) applications. The large-density memory is perfect for RFID use in factory-automation, maintenance, asset-management, and logistic-tracking applications.
Because data storage in the FRAM technology is not based on charges but on polarization of the ferroelectric film, it shows a better data stability in medical, pharmaceutical, biomedical, food and cosmetic industries than other non-volatile memory technologies.
And, because of its serial interface, the FRAM RFID can connect to a microcontroller, expanding radio frequency identification into the realm of embedded applications.
FRAM RFID Product Line-up
Radio frequency range
10 13 times
10 13 times
10 13 times
No user memory
10 10 times
10 12 times
10 12 times
10 12 times
FRAM RFID Applications
Traceability is becoming more and more important in the medical market. Because of its robust characteristics, FRAM RFID can be attached to products right after production and and store all necessary data through the whole product life, from production to logistics, warehousing, use and disposal. This gapless traceability is important to the medical, pharmaceutical, and biomedical industries, which continually seek to improve the safety and reliability of medical products.
Traceability of Medical Products
FRAM RFID enables complete visibility during all stages of the process, reducing the likelihood that counterfeited products will reach the market. Unlike conventional RFID tags, FRAM RFID tags can be placed on medical or pharmaceutical products at the production stage. After shipment, RFID tags can record the logistical history as well. And, when connected with sensors, FRAM RFID can record the environmental history (such as temperature and physical stress). Because of the large available memory sizes that FRAM RFID devices provide, much more information can be stored than in competitive products.
For example, FRAM RFID is expected to improve safety and efficiency in hospitals. FRAM RFID can track supplies of medicine, helping assure that the right quantity is in stock, and that expired medications are detected and discarded. FRAM RFID can also help monitor the number of surgical tools before and after operations.
Complete Visibility of Production and Real-Time Operations
Because of its large density memory and fast writing speed, FRAM RFID is ideal for factory automation applications that require frequent data logging and operational efficiency. FRAM RFID is also appropriate for maintenance applications that require real-time operation and on-site confirmation of maintenance history and parts information
The Fujitsu FRAM RFID tags can improve production management in factories because the tags can store a lot of information, and can be written quickly and frequently. The tags can record such information as production and inspection histories, customized parts, operation information, and manuals. This type of off-line data management improves the flexibility of the production line, and shortens production lead times.
Because FRAM RFID tags have such large memories and fast writing speed, they are appropriate for a variety of maintenance applications, from those in the electrical, construction, infrastructure, and transportation industries to applications in the rental-machinery, facilities-management (gas, water, chemicals, and oil), FA and aviation industries.
Application Example: Aviation
For example, Fujitsu’s 64kByte FRAM RFID has been selected for use in Boeing’s maintenance operation. The RFID tags will keep track of the maintenance history, manuals, parts information, and other data for the many components of an aircraft. This RFID solution is expected to increase the accuracy, cut the turnaround time, and improve the safety and efficiency of Boeing’s maintenance operations.
RFID is a passive technology that usually harvests energy from the electromagnetic field generated by the reader/writer device and uses this energy for the internal electric circuit. An analog front-end in the RFID IC converts the electromagnetic field into a voltage that is sufficient to supply energy for the memory access and to provide an answer back to the RFID reader/writer device.
If additional components need to be connected to the RFID system, there is the possibility to use a dual-interface product and access the FRAM memory through a serial SPI interface. Usually this access is performed by a microcontroller which has to be supplied with power from e.g. a battery. Same with other components that might be connected to the microcontroller like a sensor or a display.
Considering the fact that in the above example the microcontroller is only used to communicate with the single components, it can be replaced if another SPI master device is used. Since the new UHF RFID product MB97R8110 has an SPI master port embedded, it is not necessary to use an MCU but instead the MB97R8110 can be used as bridge between the RFID reader/writer device and the connected peripheral component. Also, the MB97R8110 has the ability to output a power supply to connected devices to avoid using a battery to enable battery-less systems.
With this solution, cost-efficient UHF based RFID can be realized without having to use a battery, e.g.
- Sensor applications
- E-Ink displays
- Remote controls
- LED controls
- Compliant with EPCglobal Class 1 Generation 2
- Carrier frequency: 860 MHz – 928 MHz
- Data rate:
- 7 kbps – 128kbps (RW->Tag)
- 40 kbps – 640 kbps
- External Power supply by RF (3.0V, 600µA @ +6dBm)
- SPI interface
- SPI slave interface to access memory
- SPI master interface to control SPI peripheral device
- High speed read/write non-volatile memory (FRAM)
- USR bank size: 61.440 bits
- EPC bank size: up to 480bits
- Block Permalock (write protection in unites of 512 words)
- Read/Write Endurance: 1013 times
- Memory data retention: 10 years (+85°C)
- Key-Scan circuit
Fujitsu offers below FRAM based authentication solutions by utilizing ferroelectric process and silicon gate CMOS process technologies. Such an authentication solution can be used to detect unauthorized cloned peripherals and accessories used in electric equipment. The authentication is realized by Challenge and Response between the host and the peripheral.
MB94R330 adopts an original communication protocol based on the two-wire serial interface (I²C BUS), a hardware cryptographic macro and a proprietary control core.