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Philips' flash/EEPROM technology delivers low power dissipation

Posted: 20 Mar 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Philips CMOS flash? Philips flash EEPROM? flash EEPROM automotive?

Strategy Analytics forecasts the worldwide automotive semiconductor market to increase from $16 billion in 2005 to more than $22 billion in 2009, with an annual growth rate of 8 percent. A bit more optimistic, market research company iSuppli Corp. estimates this market to have a CAGR of 10.7 percent between 2002 and 2009. At the same time, more and more EEPROM and flash memory devices are finding their way into the automotive semiconductor market and parking to stay.

In response, Royal Philips Electronics announced that its 0.18?m CMOS embedded flash/EEPROM technology is now fully qualified for Grade-1 automotive applications.

"The ability of new and existing SoC solutions to migrate to smaller process geometries should not be hampered by the lack of suitable embedded memory options," said Frans List, strategic program manager for embedded memory technology at Philips Semiconductors. "By developing a low-power, non-volatile technology optimized for embedding in a high performance CMOS process, we have achieved flash and EEPROM solutions that we are confident will survive for at least another two CMOS process generations."

Unlike other companies that use non-volatile memory technologies, which use channel hot-electron (CHE) injection for memory cell programming and Fowler-Nordheim tunnelling for erasure, Philips' flash/EEPROM technology uses Fowler-Nordheim tunnelling for both programming and erasure.

"The advantage of using Fowler-Nordheim tunnelling in programming is that there is far less current used," shared List. "This kind of mechanism works very well in smart-cards, where the energy for programming is transmitted through an RF field to the card. In fact, this technology is best suited for this kind of application."

Less current and low power dissipation
Fowler-Nordheim tunneling, also known as field emission, is the process where electrons pass through a barrier in the presence of a high electric field. This quantum mechanical tunneling process is highly dependent on both the properties of the material and the shape of the particular cathode so that higher aspect ratios produce higher field-emission currents.

Meanwhile, in CHE injection, hot-electrons are generated in the high-field region between the pinched-off channel and drain. Electrons with sufficient energy are injected across the oxide to the floating gate, thus programming the device. "In this approach, there is a lot of power dissipation, and you need to provide a lot of current to the cell," explained List.

By using the Fowler-Nordheim tunnelling for memory cell programming, Philips was able to deliver less current and low power dissipation to design engineers. The resulting low power dissipation in the memory cell is one of the reasons why the company was able to achieve full Grade-1 (125C ambient temperature) qualification for its 0.18?m flash option.

"We also chose this approach because it enables us to apply a two-transistor cell, where one transistor is used as the memory element and the other is used as a selection element. This approach also reduces complexity in controlling the device and is compared to using CHE injection for programming and Fowler-Nordheim tunnelling for erasure," added List.

Philips also announced that that its advanced 0.14?m embedded flash/EEPROM is starting volume production at its wafer fab in Nijmegen, Netherlands. According to the company, the 0.14?m flash/EEPROM option was achieved by developing a design environment that allows designers to combine scalable and non-scalable IP on the same chip, enabling them to overcome the varied scalability of different IP blocks.

- Margarette Teodosio
Electronic Engineering Times-Asia

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