What Is FRAM

Understanding FRAM Technology


Ferroelectric Random Access Memory (FRAM), also known as FeRAM or F-RAM, is a memory technology that combines the best of Flash and SRAM. It is non-volatile like Flash, but offers fast and low power writes, write endurance of 1015 cycles, code and data security that is less vulnerable to attackers than Flash/EEPROM, resistance to radiation and electromagnetic fields, and unmatched flexibility. This memory technology has been around for decades, but is now being integrated in MSP430 ultra-low-power microcontrollers (MCUs) to bring its unique advantages to real-world applications.

Molecular Structure

FRAM is a random access memory, meaning that each bit is read and written individually. This non-volatile memory is similar in structure to DRAM, which uses one transistor and one capacitor (1T-1C), but FRAM stores data as a polarization of a ferroelectric material (Lead-Zirkonate-Titanate). As an electric field is applied, dipoles shift in a crystalline structure to store information. This structure results in a number of advantages:

  • Non-volatility
  • Fast writes
  • Low power
  • High endurance
  • Resistance to electromagnetic fields and radiation
  • Unmatched flexibility
  • Data Security

The use of crystal polarization as opposed to charge storage enables state retention, lower voltage requirements (as low as 1.5V) and fast write speeds when compared against Flash, EEPROM and SRAM technologies used in typical MSP430 microcontroller applications. In addition to benefits associated with traditional memory technologies, FRAM offers system level security advantages. The lack of a charge pump removes a key vulnerability against physical attacks. FRAM is also resistant to electric/magnetic fields as well as radiation. Since FRAM state is not stored as a charge, alpha particles are not likely to cause bits to flip and the FRAM Soft Error Rate (SER) is below detectable limits. On top of this resistance to external interference, FRAM is anti-tearing, meaning power lost during a write/erase cycle will not cause data corruption. Finally, data can often be protected using encryption. The fast write speed and high endurance of FRAM enables developers to generate keys more frequently to better secure data transmission.

Technology Comparison

The previous section described some of the advantages of FRAM, but does FRAM really stack-up well against traditional forms of memory technologies? The answer is yes! The table below will summarize the key advantages of FRAM when compared against Flash, EEPROM, and SRAM.

All-in-one: FRAM MCU delievers max benefits
Specifications FRAM SRAM EEPROM Flash
Retains data w/o power
Yes No Yes Yes
Write speed
(13 KB)
<10ms <10ms 2 secs 1 sec
Average active Power [µA/MHz]
16 bit word access by the CPU
100 <60 50,000+ 230
Write endurance 1015 Unlimited 100,000 10,000
Soft Errors Below Measurable Limits Yes Yes Yes
Bit-wise programmable Yes Yes No No
Unified Memory
Flexible code and data partitioning
Yes No No No

* Based on devices from Texas Instruments

Benefits in a Microcontroller

FRAM technology offers several advantages over traditional memory technologies. These advantages can lead to real function-level benefits in low-power and basic microcontroller applications.

FRAM Use-Cases

FRAM technology offers several advantages over traditional memory technologies. These advantages can lead to real function-level benefits in low-power applications.

EEPROM replacement

EEPROM Replacement - Low power and high endurance means external EEPROM may be unnecessary

Solution Features

  • Lower energy
  • Not limited by I2C protocol speed
  • 1 billion times more write erase cycles than EEPROM
  • Bit-wise programmable
  • Increased memory size options

Solution Benefits

  • System is faster and more efficient
  • Can write more data over the same system lifetime for more data accuracy or can extend the system lifetime
  • FRAM is flexible and easy to use
  • FRAM-based MCUs can scale easily with your design
FRAM Use-Cases

Low-energy backup on power fail

Low energy backup on power fail - FRAM enables data backup when power is lost

Solution Features

  • FRAM writes consume 250x less energy per bit than Flash
  • FRAM writes use the same power as reads and there are no spikes in peak current because of the lack of a charge pump
  • FRAM on MSP430 MCUs has built-in circuitry to complete the current 4 word write (integrated LDO and capacitor)

Solution Benefits

  • 10x the backup capacity
    • Consider a battery source depleting by 0.2V every 0.01 second. In the ideal case w/o erases and discounting the peak current hit, about 8K flash bytes can be written, in comparison the FRAM equivalent is 80K bytes allowing the user complete flexibility to plan and execute a full fledged backup subroutine w/o having to worry about the impending power loss

Over-the-air updates

Over-the-Air Updates - Speed of FRAM writes can make over the air updates more reliable

Solution Features

  • Updating FRAM takes 100x less time and 250x less energy/bit
  • No pre-erase required
  • Data can be written on-the-fly
    • Data can be written to FRAM right out of the COMM channel, with no buffering required
  • Hardware accelerators for encryption/decryption using the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)

Solution Benefits

  • Battery life extended by limiting active radio time
  • FRAM simplifies development
  • Data secure on power loss, making verification algorithms simpler
  • AES paired with authentication can prevent exploitation
Over-the-Air Updates - Speed of FRAM writes can make over the air updates more reliable

Remote sensing or data logging

Remote Sensing or Data Logging - Extend product life and reduce maintenance

Solution Features

  • Lower energy
    • Fast writes
    • Low voltage and current is needed to change FRAM data
  • Near infinite endurance
    • 10 billion times more cycles than Flash

Solution Benefits

  • Go longer without replacing batteries
    • Install cost can be much greater than battery cost
    • FRAM MCU can save an extra voltage supply and reduce peak system current
    • Low voltage and current is needed to change FRAM data
  • High endurance means:
    • Higher accuracy - more samples can be taken over the same product lifetime
    • Extend product lifetime - samples can be taken at the same frequency for longer
  • FRAM MCU can save an extra voltage supply and reduce system peak current
    • Writes to the FRAM cell occur at low voltage and very little current is needed to change the data
    • As a comparison, EEPROM high 10-14V may be needed
data logging

Energy harvesting

Energy Harvesting - Improve battery efficiency or remove them all together

Solution Features

  • Low active duty cycle for non-volatile writes
    • Low average and peak write power leads to low average and peak power consumption of the MCU
  • Faster wakeup time
    • Variables stored in non-volatile FRAM
  • Perfect pair with BQ25570
    • Specifically designed to acquire and manage µW to mW of power generated from DC sources – solar, thermal or wind

Solution Benefits

  • Achieve closer to rated battery capacity
    • battery efficiency is improved and lifetime is extended by limiting peak current consumption
  • Energy harvesting can be the only source of energy, or can complement batteries for longer product lifetime
energy harvesting

Data security

Data Security – Protect intellectual property and transmissions with FRAM

Solution Features

  • No charge pump needed
  • Resistance to external fields
  • State retention on power fail, fast writes and 10 write cycles
  • Hardware accelerators for encryption/decryption using the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)

Solution Benefits

  • Memory protected from some types of physical attacks
  • FRAM is not susceptible to Soft Errors
  • Update security keys quickly and send notifications in case of certain state changes
  • AES paired with authentication enables more secure data communication
data security

Development flexibility

Development Flexibility - Eliminate traditional boundaries between code, variable and constant data

Solution Features

  • Flash:RAM ratio is industry standard, no customization allowed!
    • FRAM breaks down this barrier with the ability to customize the size of your memory blocks
  • Flexibility to change these boundaries at run-time or compile-time

Solution Benefits

  • Fewer platforms = quicker time to market
    • FRAM enables developers to maintain 1 platform across projects with differing needs
  • Lower System Cost
    • No need to pay for a larger device just to get more RAM
development flexibility

Manufacturing efficiency

Manufacturing Efficiency - Saving time = saving money

Solution Features

  • FRAM can be written at much greater than 1MBps
    • 100x the write speed of Flash

Solution Benefits

  • Improve time through the manufacturing line for savings in high volume production
manufacturing efficiency

FRAM Customer Testimonials

Engineers around the world are adding FRAM-based microcontrollers to their systems. Check-out some of the exciting applications from electronic shelf labels (ESLs) to asteroid mining below:

Battery-powered sensors – Providing objective data to aid in triage and medical treatment of traumatic brain injuries

"Lower power = longer battery life“

Customer Problem

  • Small form factor
  • Sustained functionality on battery power for extended periods of time
  • Need to collect data regularly

FRAM Advantage

  • Data stored quickly with minimal overall power
    • MSP430 ADCs can operate in low-power modes and store data directly to FRAM without CPU intervention
  • Integrated FRAM and other system components on MSP430 microcontrollers reduce overall system size
  • Product lifetime extended with 1015 write cycle endurance

Eink Display modules – Develop electronic shelf-labels and more using FRAM enabled modules

"The unique flexibility of TI's FRAM MCUs allowed us to set the partition between RAM-type memory and program memory anywhere within the FRAM and create a unique, low-cost e-ink display solution within a compact footprint,” said Don Powrie, CEO of DLP Design. “Normally, in order to get this amount of RAM, we would require a much larger MCU, thereby driving up the overall product cost.“

Customer Problem

  • Time required to update the Eink display needs to be kept at a minimum
  • The ability to quickly store and recall full screen images from the image frame buffer is important
  • To have enough RAM, a much larger and more expensive MCU would be needed

FRAM Advantage

  • Update Eink display quickly
  • Reduce MCU cost when industry standard Flash to RAM ratios are not ideal or when external RAM buffering is required
  • Data is secured on power loss
Eink Display

Asteroid Mining – Pushing the boundaries of resource mining off-planet

"The MSP430 FRAM micro-controller is a key element of our spacecraft avionics architecture. Its extremely low power requirements make it very well suited to the spacecraft environment. It has been great working with TI to integrate this element into our spacecraft and I am really looking forward to seeing its performance on orbit”

Customer Problem

  • Resources limited in remote system
  • Radiation can cause soft errors in traditional forms of memory

FRAM Advantage

  • Fast and low power writes enable longer system run-time on limited resources
  • Resistance to alpha particles and other forms of radiation means data is more secure
Asteroid mining

Weather Monitoring – Localized Wind, temperature and humidity information available in real-time

"The FRAM series allows us to achieve ultra-low-power as well as simplifying data buffering in our firmware”

Customer Problem

  • Real-time data requirements can quickly exceed memory limits
  • Limited power sources available in remote location

FRAM Advantage

  • 1015 write cycle endurance greatly exceeds that of other non-volatile memory technologies
  • The ultra-low active and standby current of FRAM MCUs enable energy harvesting solutions and extended battery life
Weather Monitoring

Stadium Lighting – Redefining the possibilities and power consumption

“It was the FRAM in the device that was a deciding factor in the selection. As power interruptions and inconsistent power cleanliness is a constant battle we needed to be able to retain fundamental command and control code”

Customer Problem

  • Power interruption present can create major due to long system startup times
  • Updating firmware across many nodes can be challenging
  • Thousands of lighting fixtures can lead to a large energy bill

FRAM Advantage

  • High write speed and endurance enable quick wakeup and immediate restoration of state
  • Updating FRAM is simple and fast with no buffering or pre-erase requirements
  • Ultra-low standby current enables system management to meet energy requirements
Stadium Lighting

Submit a Testimonial

Is FRAM technology a key piece of your application? If you are excited about this new non-volatile memory and would like to share, please complete the survey below for a chance to be featured on this page!

Tell us about your design!

FRAM-based MCUs

The MSP430 ultra-low-power microcontroller (MCU) family now features a new series of FRAM-based devices. The MSP430FRxx FRAM series offers a full portfolio of devices ranging from 4 KB to 128 KB of non-volatile memory.

MSP430FR2033 – Small memory (up to 16 KB FRAM) footprint with abundant input/output (IO) pins. Devices also feature special Infrared (IR) modulation logic for simplifying design in applications including remote controls.

  • Up to 16 MHz
  • Up to 16 KB Non-volatile FRAM
  • 10-channel 10-bit ADC
  • IR Modulation Logic
  • Up to 60 GPIO

MSP430FR2311 – Small memory (up to 4 KB FRAM) footprint with extended analog capabilities. Device features operational amplifier, transimpedance amplifier (TIA), comparator and ADC for direct connection to sensors in a system.

  • Up to 16 MHz
  • Up to 4 KB non-volatile FRAM
  • 8-channel 10-bit ADC
  • Transimpedance amplifier
  • Small package (3x3)

MSP430FR2633 – Small memory (up to 16 KB FRAM) footprint with abundant input/output (IO) pins. Devices feature CapTIvate™ capacitive touch technology to enable low power self- and mutual-capacitance designs with 10 V RMS noise immunity.

  • Up to 16 MHz
  • Up to 16 KB non-volatile FRAM

MSP430FR4133 – Small memory footprint with an ultra-low-power LCD controller and abundant capacitive touch enabled IO pins. The 256-segment LCD controller has an integrated charge pump for maintained contrast in low-power modes and features software configurable pins for simplified hardware layout of LCDs. IR modulation logic is also available on these MCUs.

  • Up to 16 MHz
  • Up to 16 KB Non-volatile FRAM
  • Industry’s Lowest Power LCD Controller
  • 10-channel 10-bit ADC
  • IR Modulation Logic
  • Up to 60 Capacitive Touch Enabled GPIO

MSP430FR5739 – The first set of devices featuring FRAM technology. These microcontrollers offer 5 timers, a 12-channel 10-bit ADC, and direct memory access (DMA) for minimizing time in active mode. This series also offers the smallest packaged device in the MSP430 portfolio (24-pin 2x2 DSBGA).

  • Up to 24 MHz
  • Up to 16 KB Non-volatile FRAM
  • 12-channel 10-bit ADC
  • Comparator
  • 5 Timers
  • Direct Memory Access
  • Smallest Package in the Portfolio (DSBGA – 2x2)
  • Up to 33 GPIO

MSP430FR5969World’s lowest power MCU series (codename: Wolverine) with a medium-sized memory footprint (up to 64 KB FRAM). These devices feature 100 µA/MHz active mode current and 450 nA standby mode current with the real-time clock (RTC) enabled. The portfolio also includes a new 16-channel 12-bit analog-to-digital converter (ADC) that can accept single or differential inputs. A window comparator is integrated for extended time in low-power modes. These MCUs also feature a 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) accelerator and Intellectual Property (IP) Encapsulation module for protecting important data.

  • Up to 16 MHz
  • Up to 64 KB Non-volatile FRAM
  • 16-channel 12-bit ADC
  • Comparator
  • 5 Timers
  • Direct Memory Access
  • 256-bit AES
  • Up to 40 GPIO

MSP430FR6989 – These microcontrollers expand our MSP430FR59x/58x series with more memory and integration. These devices feature a large memory footprint (up to 128 KB FRAM), a low-power 320-segment LCD controller with integrated charge pump, and a new Extended Scan Interface (ESI) for measuring rotation or even proximity.

  • Up to 16 MHz
  • Up to 128 KB Non-volatile FRAM
  • LCD Controller
  • 16-channel 12-bit ADC
  • Comparator
  • Extended Scan Interface
  • 5 Timers
  • Direct Memory Access
  • 256-bit AES
  • Up to 83 GPIO
Learn more at FRAM Overview

Evaluation and Design

Texas Instruments has the right evaluation tools to help you choose the FRAM device for your application and start developing. Whether new to microcontrollers, an experienced engineer, just starting evaluation, or integrating MSP430 microcontrollers into a design, the Ultra-low-power MSP430FRxx FRAM microcontroller series. For quick evaluation or rapid prototyping, the MSP430 FRAM-based LaunchPad Development Kits offer everything necessary to get started for under $20. This low-cost MCU platform is complemented with Target Socket boards for a full pin breakout of our microcontrollers. These evaluation modules (EVMs) enable full integration of MSP430 MCUs into a developer’s system. These kits are all enabled by the MSP430 microcontroller programmer/debugger, MSP-FET.

Learn more about MSP430 FRAM Development Tools



Integrated Development Environments (IDE) or application libraries are also available to jumpstart development. Getting started has never been simpler with TI’s Code Composer Studio or the IAR® Embedded Workbench IDEs. These are supplemented by free, optimized libraries to improve performance of math operations and simplify development when using capacitive touch or graphics in an application. Optimizers, such as EnergyTrace™ Technology, are also available to enable shortened time to market.

Learn more about software development on MSP430 FRAM MCUs


Reference designs are also available to help developers form their systems. TI Designs provide the foundation that you need including methodology, testing and design files to quickly evaluate and customize the system. TI Designs help you accelerate your time to market.

Checkout the latest TI Designs today!

Migration Made Easy – Porting to FRAM-based Microcontrollers

We know that moving to a new series, with or without a new memory technology, can be daunting. Continue reading for the short summary of what to consider when porting your microcontroller application to our new FRAM-based MCUs.


Depending on the device selected, additional considerations should be taken to understand more than the memory itself. For example, microcontrollers may differ in power management or serial communications on previous MCU families. Additionally, several analog peripherals and special functions may be different. Please utilize the microcontroller specific datasheet and user’s guides to fully understand the MCU of interest. To dig into the details for specific families now, please explore the following documents:

The Basics

The Basics

  • FRAM is nonvolatile; that is, it retains its contents on loss of power.
  • The embedded FRAM on MSP microcontrollers can be accessed (read or write) at a maximum speed of 8 MHz. Above 8 MHz, wait states are used when accessing FRAM.
  • Writing to FRAM and reading from FRAM is just like SRAM. It requires no setup or preparation such as pre-erase before write or unlocking of control registers (unless a memory protection unit is used to protect the FRAM against write access).
  • FRAM is not segmented and each bit is individually erasable, writable, and addressable.
  • FRAM segments do not require an erase before a write.
  • FRAM write accesses are low power, because writing to FRAM does not require a charge pump. Keep in mind, that FRAM does consume more power and is slightly faster than SRAM, so leverage the integrated SRAM in the MSP430FRx MCUs for data that will be accessed the most (i.e. application stack).
  • FRAM writes can be performed across the full voltage range of the MCUs.
  • FRAM write speeds can reach up to 8 MBps with a typical write speed of approximately 2 MBps. The high speed of writes is inherent to the technology and aided by the elimination of the erase bottleneck that is prevalent in other nonvolatile memory technologies. In comparison, typical MSP MCU flash write speed including the erase time is approximately 14 KBps.

Comparison of Flash and FRAM on MSP430 MCUs


FRAM (FR969)

Flash (F5438A)

Program time for byte or word (max) 120 ns 85 us (approximately)
Erase time for segment (max) Not applicable (pre-erase not required) 18 ms
Supply current during program (max) No extra current during write (included in active power specification) 5 mA
Supply current during erase (max) Not applicable (pre-erase not required) 2 mA

Nonvolatile memory maximum read frequency

8 MHz

25 MHz

Running over 8 MHz – Wait State Control and Instruction Execution Speed

Running over 8 MHz – Wait State Control and Instruction Execution Speed

The system clock for the CPU or DMA may exceed the FRAM access and cycle time requirements. For these scenarios, a wait state generator mechanism is implemented. The "Recommended Operating Conditions" of the device-specific data sheet lists the frequency ranges with the required wait state settings. The number of wait states is controlled by the NWAITS[2:0] bits in the FRCTL0 register.

To increase the system clock frequency beyond the maximum frequency allowed by the current wait state setting, the following steps are required:
Increase the number of wait states by configuring NWAITS[2:0] according to the target frequency.
Increase the frequency to the new target.>

In terms of the write time, FRAM is written in four-word blocks, and the write time is built into each read cycle. Hence, there is no difference between the read time and write time for an FRAM byte, word, or 4-word block. With regards to the read frequency, FRAM accesses (both read and write) are capped at 8 MHz. However, flash reads can take place at the maximum speed allowed by the device (fSYSTEM), which
is either 8 MHz or 16 MHz in MSP430F4x microcontrollers for example.

Note: The speed of instruction execution in an FRAM-based system is affected by the architecture. The MSP430FRx MCUs use a 2-way associative cache that employs a combination of register and FRAM accesses when executing from nonvolatile memory. This allows the system throughput to be higher than the maximum allowable read frequency of 8 MHz.

Please see the MSP430 FRAM Technology – How To and Best Practices for more information on execution using MSP430FRx MCUs.

Memory Layout Partitioning

Memory Layout Partitioning

Since FRAM memory can be used as universal memory for program code, variables, constants, stacks, and so forth, the memory has to be partitioned for the application. Code Composer Studio™ and IAR Embedded Workbench® for MSP430 IDEs can both be used to set up an application’s memory layout to make best-possible use of the underlying FRAM depending on the application needs. These memory partitioning schemes are generally located inside the IDE-specific linker command file. By default, the linker command files will typically allocate variables and stacks into SRAM. And, program code and constants are allocated in FRAM. These memory partitions can be moved or sized depending on your application needs.

Please see the MSP430 FRAM Technology – How To and Best Practices for more information and to take a closer look at memory partitioning using IAR Embedded Workbench.

Memory Partitioning Example


Protecting Memory on the MSP430FRx Microcontrollers

Protecting Memory on the MSP430FRx Microcontrollers

Because FRAM is very easy to reprogram, it also makes it easy for erroneous code execution to unintentionally overwrite application code, just as it would if executing from RAM. To safeguard against erroneous overwriting of FRAM, memory protection is provided.

MSP430FR2x/4x MCUs provide two separate write protection bits:

SYSCFG0.PFWP – User Program FRAM protection
SYSCFG0.DFWP – User Data FRAM (1800h to 19FFh) protection

When a write protection bit is set, any write to the protected FRAM is blocked but does not generate an
illegal interrupt or reset.

MSP430FR5x/6x MCUs utilizes the Memory Protection Unit (MPU) to safeguard the memory with increased flexibility. The MPU monitors and supervises memory segments as defined in software to be protected as read, write, execute or a combination of them. For example, if a memory block is assigned 'read only‘ status, any write access to that block is prevented and an error is flagged. This is useful for storing constant data or application code that is not expected to change over the device lifetime.

Note: The MPU should be enabled as early as possible after the device starts executing code coming from a power-on or reset at the beginning of the C startup routine even before the main() routine is entered.

A closer look at setting up the MPU in Code Composer Studio manually or using a wizard within your development environment:

Analyze the MAP file to determine the start and size of the memory segments that constitute the application firmware image: constants, variables, no-init, persistent, and program code.

Please see the MSP430 FRAM Technology – How To and Best Practices for more information and to take a closer look at securing FRAM using IAR Embedded Workbench.

Memory Segmentation Inside CCS Map File


FRAM (FR969)

Flash (F5438A)

.bss/data Varaibles Read and Write
.Ti.noinit Data defined using #pragma MOINIT Read and Write
.TI.persistent Data defined using
Read and Write
.sysmem Heap used by 'malloc' and 'free' Read and Write
.const Constants Read only
.text Program Code Read and Execute

1) Manual MPU Configuration

Next, the MPU can be configured to protect three different memory segments in software. Each segment can be individually configured to read, write, execute, or a combination of them. Most applications would have some form of variables that should be protected as read and write, constants to be read only, and program code should be read and execute only. There are two registers that define how the segment boundaries are configured: Memory Protection Unit Segmentation Border 1 (MPUSEGB1) and Memory Protection Unit Segmentation Border 2 Register (MPUSEGB2). Before writing to the register, the address needs to be shifted to the right by 4 bits.

Note: the smallest MPU segment size allocation is 1KB or 0x0400. For additional information, see the device-specific family user's guide.

MPU Memory Segmentation Example


2) Wizard-based MPU Configuration

Code Composer Studio v6’s built-in MSP MPU Wizard is accessible through the CCS Project Properties. To open this dialog, right-click on the project in the CCS’ Project Explorer view and select Properties.

Enable the MPU by checking the Enable Memory Protection Unit (MPU) box. Then, the configuration should be left at default for allowing the compiler to automatically configure and partition the memory regions based in the application usage. For example, constants are configured as read only or program code is configured as read and execute only. When configured through the MPU Wizard, the C startup routine automatically configures and enables the MPU before entering main() without any additional steps needed by you.

Please see the MSP430 FRAM Technology – How To and Best Practices for more information and to take a closer look at securing FRAM using IAR Embedded Workbench.

MPU Wizard


The MSP Ultra-Low-Power microcontroller (MCU) series from Texas Instruments (TI) offers the lowest power consumption and the perfect mix of integrated peripherals for a wide range of low power and portable applications. This could include use as a metering mcu or as a microcontroller in remote control designs, with integration that enables functionality of a segment lcd driver or ir modulator. TI provides robust design support for the MSP low-power MCU family including technical documents, training, and microcontroller development kit and embedded software tools you need to get started today! This makes the MSP430, an easy to use microcontroller to begin development. This low cost microcontroller is the perfect place to start for battery powered mcu applications.