Infoscience

Journal article

Designing Low Power and Durable Digital Blocks Using Shadow Nanoelectromechanical Relays

Nanoelectromechanical (NEM) relays are a promising emerging technology that has gained widespread research attention due to its zero leakage current, sharp ON-OFF transitions, and complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor compatibility. As a result, NEM relays have been significantly investigated as highly energy-efficient design solutions. A major shortcoming of NEMs preventing their widespread use is their limited switching endurance. Hence, in order to utilize the low-power advantages of NEM relays, further device, circuit, and architectural techniques are required. In this paper, we introduce the concept of shadow NEM relays, which is a circuit-level technique to leverage the energy efficiency of the NEM relays despite their low switching endurance. This technique creates two virtual ground nodes in a block to allow: 1) a low power mode with functional NEM relays and 2) a normal mode with failed NEM relays. To demonstrate the applicability of this concept, we have applied it to a six-transistor SRAM cell as an illustrative example. We also investigate the applicability of this SRAM cell in field-programmable gate arrays and on-chip caches. Experimental results reveal that shadow NEM relays can reduce the power consumption of SRAM cells by up to 80% while addressing the limited switching endurance of NEM relays.

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