Fujitsu has announced 2 Mbit ferro-electric RAM (FRAM) memory chips, twice as dense as its previous 1 Mbit FRAM. This memory technology combines the qualities of RAM with non-volatile memory such as Flash.

FRAM is similar in construction to DRAM but with a ferro-electric layer to achieve non-volatility. It has a number of advantages over Flash, which dominates the non-volatile memory market: lower power usage; faster write speed; and a much greater maximum number of write-erase cycles; up to ten billion, equivalent to writing 30 times a second continuously for ten years. It can also store data for ten years without a battery.

Flash's disadvantages include: high program and erase voltages; slow programming speed; limited write-erase endurance. Its advantages are high storage densities - now in the multiple gigabits area - and a low cost per storage bit.

Flash and FRAM characteristics make FRAM suitable only in applications that need its power efficiency, write speed and prolonged write-erase cycle count. These include car navigation systems, multi-function printers, and measuring instruments. If the power supply to measuring instruments fails, data can be written to FRAM at high-speed to prevent its loss.

FRAM's primary competition comes from MRAM and PRAM. Fujitsu and Ramtron produced 1Mbit FRAM chips in 2006. Fujitsu says its 2MBit FRAM is the largest capacity in volume production, a reference to Freescale Semiconductor which started limited production of 4Mbit FRAM in summer, 2006.

Fujitsu's 2 Mbit FRAM chips, using the same packaging as its 1MBit chips, are available now, with sample pricing of 2,000 yen and a production capacity of 200,000 chips per month.

And the good ship Fram? Fram, meaning 'forward' in Norwegian, was a ship used in expeditions in the Arctic by the Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen. It was probably the strongest wooden ship ever built and designed to be pushed up by the freezing sea, float on the ice, and thus pass right over the North Pole. Fujitsu will be hoping that FRAM continues to float over Flash.