Standard-Cell Based Memories (SCMs): from Sub-VT to Error-Resilient Systems
Embedded memories consume an increasingly dominant part of the overall area and power of a large variety of systems-on-chip [ITRS’09]: 1) biomedical implants and wireless sensor networks require robust memories operating in the sub-VT domain; 2) many handheld devices and microprocessors are operated near to threshold-voltage; and 3) fault-tolerant systems/error-resilient computing has attracted interest due to increaing process variations. Standard-cell based memories (SCMs) entail minimum design effort and are immediately functional in any system from reliable sub-VT to error-resilient high-performance. In particular, sub-VT SCMs ensure robustness and improve access bandwidth and energy-efficiency compared to sub-VT SRAM macros. Adding only one custom cell (low-leakage latch) to a commercial standard-cell library further improves energy-efficiency of sub-VT SCMs. In fault-tolerant systems requiring small data retention times, a small amount of errors in the memory content does not severely impede system functionality, and dynamic latches yield SCMs smaller than commercial 6T SRAM macros for storage capacities up to at least 2kb. Various silicon-prooven SCM architectures are presented, and the best-practice SCM implementations for both sub-VT and above-VT applications are derived. To reduce leakage power in sub-VT SCMs, a latch with few highly resistive VDD-ground path is designed using transistor stacking and stretching. For the benefit of smaller silicon area, but at the cost of reduced robustness, various dynamic latches are integrated in the SCM compilation flow.