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IBM unveils eDRAM for fastest SOI chip

Posted: 24 Sep 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:dynamic memory  silicon-on-insulator  DRAM  SOI prototype 

IBM reports that it has been able to prototype a next-generation, 32nm, silicon-on-insulator (SOI) on-chip dynamic memory device. The company says the prototype it is the semiconductor industry's smallest, densest and fastest such device. It claims that the device can offer improved speed, power savings and reliability for products ranging from servers to consumer electronics.

IBM's SOI technology can provide up to a 30 per cent chip performance improvement and 40 per cent power reduction, compared to standard bulk silicon technology. SOI protects the transistors on the chip with a "blanket" of insulation that reduces electrical leakage, saving power and allowing current to flow through the circuit more efficiently, improving performance.

The company has fabricated a test chip with an embedded DRAM (eDRAM) technology that features the smallest memory cell and offers density, speed and capacity better than conventional on-chip SRAM announced in 32nm and 22nm technology, and comparable to what would be expected of an SRAM produced in 15nm technology—three technology generations ahead of chips in volume production today.

IBM's eDRAM cell claims to be twice as dense as other 22nm embedded SRAM cell—including the smallest 22nm memory cell announced by IBM in August 2008—and up to 4x as dense as any comparable 32nm embedded SRAM in the industry. Higher memory density can lead to chips that are smaller, more efficient and can process more data, improving system performance.

The IBM eDRAM in 32nm SOI technology is the fastest embedded memory announced to date, achieving latency and cycle times of less than 2ns. The IBM eDRAM uses four times less standby power and has up to a thousand times lower soft-error rate (errors caused by electrical charges), offering better power savings and reliability compared to a similar SRAM.

Multicore enabler
Embedded memory is a key performance enabler for multi-core processors and other ICs, and the new prototype has numerous implications for businesses and other organisations around the globe. For example, use of this technology in high-performance server, printer, storage and networking applications can result in improved system performance and energy savings. In mobile, consumer and game applications, it can result in a smaller system form-factor, lower-cost and energy savings.

IBM intends to bring the benefits of its 32nm SOI technology to a wide range of ASIC and foundry clients and will use the technology in chips for its servers.

IBM already is engaged with early access foundry clients in 32nm technology and ARM is developing design libraries for the technology. An initial 32nm ARM library is available now and IBM has extended this collaboration to include 22nm SOI technology, enabling ARM to gain early access to this technology. This represents the two companies' commitment to align early on process technology, design rules, design library and cores for next-generation SOI technology.

"We are making this 32nm offering available to clients who are ready to benefit from the significant performance and power advantages of this seventh generation of IBM SOI technology," said Gary Patton, VP for IBM's semiconductor research and development centre. "The industry-leading, dense embedded memory, and our design library agreement with ARM, underscore our ability to provide clients with a market edge and a clear progression path to 32- and 22nm SOI technology nodes."





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