Modeling and Mitigation of Soft Errors in Nanoscale SRAMs
Jahinuzzaman, Shah M.
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Energetic particle (alpha particle, cosmic neutron, etc.) induced single event data upset or soft error has emerged as a key reliability concern in SRAMs in sub-100 nanometre technologies. Low operating voltage, small node capacitance, high packing density, and lack of error masking mechanisms are primarily responsible for the soft error susceptibility of SRAMs. In addition, since SRAM occupies the majority of die area in system-on-chips (SoCs) and microprocessors, different leakage reduction techniques, such as, supply voltage reduction, gated grounding, etc., are applied to SRAMs in order to limit the overall chip leakage. These leakage reduction techniques exponentially increase the soft error rate in SRAMs. The soft error rate is further accentuated by process variations, which are prominent in scaled-down technologies. In this research, we address these concerns and propose techniques to characterize and mitigate soft errors in nanoscale SRAMs. We develop a comprehensive analytical model of the critical charge, which is a key to assessing the soft error susceptibility of SRAMs. The model is based on the dynamic behaviour of the cell and a simple decoupling technique for the non-linearly coupled storage nodes. The model describes the critical charge in terms of NMOS and PMOS transistor parameters, cell supply voltage, and noise current parameters. Consequently, it enables characterizing the spread of critical charge due to process induced variations in these parameters and to manufacturing defects, such as, resistive contacts or vias. In addition, the model can estimate the improvement in critical charge when MIM capacitors are added to the cell in order to improve the soft error robustness. The model is validated by SPICE simulations (90nm CMOS) and radiation test. The critical charge calculated by the model is in good agreement with SPICE simulations with a maximum discrepancy of less than 5%. The soft error rate estimated by the model for low voltage (sub 0.8 V) operations is within 10% of the soft error rate measured in the radiation test. Therefore, the model can serve as a reliable alternative to time consuming SPICE simulations for optimizing the critical charge and hence the soft error rate at the design stage. In order to limit the soft error rate further, we propose an area-efficient multiword based error correction code (MECC) scheme. The MECC scheme combines four 32 bit data words to form a composite 128 bit ECC word and uses an optimized 4-input transmission-gate XOR logic. Thus MECC significantly reduces the area overhead for check-bit storage and the delay penalty for error correction. In addition, MECC interleaves two composite words in a row for limiting cosmic neutron induced multi-bit errors. The ground potentials of the composite words are controlled to minimize leakage power without compromising the read data stability. However, use of composite words involves a unique write operation where one data word is written while other three data words are read to update the check-bits. A power efficient word line signaling technique is developed to facilitate the write operation. A 64 kb SRAM macro with MECC is designed and fabricated in a commercial 90nm CMOS technology. Measurement results show that the SRAM consumes 534 μW at 100 MHz with a data latency of 3.3 ns for a single bit error correction. This translates into 82% per-bit energy saving and 8x speed improvement over recently reported multiword ECC schemes. Accelerated neutron radiation test carried out at TRIUMF in Vancouver confirms that the proposed MECC scheme can correct up to 85% of soft errors.