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Using 16nm FinFET as a resistive memory device

Posted: 05 Oct 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:TSMC? resistive memory? FinFET? ReRAM?

This year's International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) is set to showcase a number of interesting papers. One in particular is about making a non-volatile memory device, together with its array select switch, from a leading-edge logic transistor.

As nature and engineering usually contrive to make things difficult for engineers this is seemingly a most unusually convenient development. And also potentially an industry-changing development.

The paper is set to show that hafnium-dioxide high-k dielectric material, which is used in the high-k metal gate (HKMG) of a 16nm FinFET, can also be turned into a resistive memory device. It is likely that the dielectric is laid down as a separate ReRAM device adjacent to the transistor. The paper comes shortly after Intel and Micron announced a development in non-volatile memory technology dubbed 3D Xpoint.

However, at IEDM researchers from Taiwan's Tsing-Hua University and foundry chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd are set to report on a 1Kb memory array made using TSMC's 16nm FinFET logic manufacturing process. It is dubbed a FinFET Dielectric memory, or FIND.

16nm FinFET as ReRAM

Other virtues of the approach are that the FinFET can be used as the select transistor in the array and the dioxide-based resistive dielectric film for a storage node of the ReRAM cell. No additional masks or process steps are required, the paper's abstract states. The ReRAM cell size is 0.07632 square micrometres. This means that the memory, if it can show the desired read, read and endurance performance is intrinsically available as an embedded memory for SoCs. It could even allow a logic process to be used for making discrete memory ICs.

A smart look inside Intel and Micron's 3D XPoint
At Intel and Micron's recent 3D XPoint memory announcement, an interesting answer to a question popped up: "It does not use electrons. It's a material property." I asked Intel to clarify this point, assuming the speaker meant to say it does not store electrons like a NAND memory, but it had nothing further to say.

What a coincidence

Hafnium dioxide has been used for many years as the high dielectric constant "insulator" within logic transistors. At the same time as a dielectric material it has also been extensively studied by research institutes such as IMEC and Tsing-Hua University as a transition metal oxide with potential as a two-terminal resistive RAM.

The abstract states that the 1Kb device shows low-voltage operation, good retention and excellent reliability and concludes that the FIND ReRAM is a promising embedded non-volatile memory for the FinFET era.

There doesn't appear to be any paper at IEDM on the underlying technology behind the Intel, Micron 3D Xpoint.

- Peter Clarke
??EE Times Europe

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