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  Microchip Technology Semiconductor Electronic Components Datasheet  

AN537 Datasheet

Everything a System Engineer Needs to Know About Serial EEPROM Endurance

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AN537 pdf
Serial EEPROM Endurance
AN537
Everything a System Engineer Needs to Know About Serial EEPROM Endurance
The term “endurance” has become a confusing param-
eter for both users and manufacturers of EEPROM
products. This is largely because many semiconductor
vendors treat this important application-dependent reli-
ability parameter as a vague specmanship topic. As a
result, the system engineer often designs without proper
reliability information or under-utilizes the EEPROM as
an effective solution.
Endurance (the number of times an EEPROM cell can be
erased and rewritten without corrupting data) is a mea-
sure of the device’s reliability, not its parametric perfor-
mance. As such, endurance is not achieved by some-
how making EEPROM devices more durable or robust to
extend the life of the intrinsic erase/write cycle, but rather
by reducing their defect-density failure rates. This has a
direct impact on the design engineer characterizing
EEPROM memory needs for an application and evaluat-
ing components from various manufacturers. The sys-
tem design engineer needs to understand not only the
relationship between the application, expected use and
failure mechanisms, but also how the manufacturer has
arrived at published endurance data for its components.
This tutorial volume is intended to clarify some of the
issues in the industry and provide a tool for the system
design engineer, the system reliability engineer, and the
component engineer to determine EEPROM reliability
and understanding how to apply it to actual application
requirements. It will examine four main areas:
• CMOS floating gate memory cell operation and char-
acteristics
• Significant process and design interactions and en-
durance characterization variables
• Common misinterpretations of endurance
• Determining some real world application reliability
requirements
EEPROM MEMORY CELL
OPERATION AND
CHARACTERISTICS
In discussing endurance characteristics of EEPROMs,
it’s important to review how these components operate,
and why and how they fail. Figure 1 illustrates a CMOS
floating gate EEPROM cell, including voltage conditions
for READ, ERASE, and WRITE operations. To erase or
write, the row select transistor must have the relatively
high potential of 20V. This voltage is internally gener-
ated on chip by a charge pump, with the only external
voltage required being VDD. The only difference be-
tween an ERASE and a WRITE is the direction of the
applied field potential relative to the polysilicon floating
gate.
When 20V is applied to the polysilicon memory cell gate
and 0V is applied to the bit line drain (column), electrons
tunnel from the substrate through the 90-angstrom Tun-
nel Dielectric (TD) oxide to the polysilicon floating gate
until the polysilicon floating gate is saturated with charge.
The cell is now at an ERASE state of “1”. When 0V is
applied to the polysilicon memory cell gate and 20V is
applied to the bit line drain (column), electrons tunnel
from the polysilicon floating gate through the TD oxide to
the substrate. The cell then is at a WRITE state of “0”.
This sequence of the transfer of charge onto the floating
gate (ERASE) and the electrical removal of that charge
from the floating gate (WRITE) is one ERASE/ WRITE
cycle, or “E/W cycle.”
The field (applied voltage to an oxide thickness) across
the tunneling path created by the 20V potential is ex-
tremely high in order to transfer the electrons. Over the
cell’s “application time,” as measured by E/W cycles, the
EEPROM cell begins to wear out due to the field stress.
The EEPROM cell wears out as the number of cycles
increase resulting in the voltage margin between the
ERASE and WRITE states decreasing until finally there
is not enough margin for the EEPROM sense amp to
detect a difference in the two states during a READ.
Failure is defined as when the sense amp can no longer
reliably differentiate logic state changes.
Figure 2 (single cell EEPROM endurance characteris-
tics) illustrates that the intrinsic wear out point for a
normal cell with specified dimensions and electrical
characteristics is very acceptable, in excess of 2 million
E/W cycles. Failures at lower cycles are due mostly to
very small defects or imperfections in the oxide or
silicon-to-oxide interface.
8
© 1992 Microchip Technology Inc.
8-15
DS00537A-page 1


  Microchip Technology Semiconductor Electronic Components Datasheet  

AN537 Datasheet

Everything a System Engineer Needs to Know About Serial EEPROM Endurance

No Preview Available !

AN537 pdf
Serial EEPROM Endurance
A key point to remember is that most failures occurring
at less than 2 million E/W cycles are due to the number
of defects per a given area (defect density dependent.)
Thus high EEPROM endurance reliability is achieved by
reducing the defect density failure rates, not by increas-
ing the number of intrinsic cycles in the cell’s operational
design.
Error correction circuits are design techniques com-
monly used by EEPROM manufacturers to increase
endurance by reducing the failure rate caused by single
bit failures. These circuits are transparent to the user.
One typical scheme is using 4 bits of error correction for
every 8 “real” bits (one byte). In this scheme, one bit
failure in the byte is correctable, while if two bits within
the byte fail, the byte is not correctable.
Another error correction scheme is to use one “parity” bit
for every “cell.” Here both EEPROM cells must fail to
result in a bit fail.
FIGURE 1 - CMOS FLOATING GATE EEPROM CELL
Memory Cell Gate
Poly-Silicon, Level 2
Inter-Level Dielectric
Poly-Silicon, Level 1
Row Select Transistor
Poly-Silicon, Level 2
Source
90 ANG Td Oxide
(Not to scale)
Common Source
Drain
Bit Line
Memory
Cell Gate
Row
Select
Bit Line
Row Select Gate
Memory Cell Gate
Common Source
Read
1.6 volts
5.0 volts
5.0 volts
0.0 volts
Write
18.0 volts
20.0 volts
0.0 volts
Float
Erase
0.0 volts
20.0 volts
20.0 volts
0.0 volts
Standby
0.0 volts
0.0 volts
0.0 volts
0.0 volts
DS00537A-page 2
8-16
© 1992 Microchip Technology Inc.


Part Number AN537
Description Everything a System Engineer Needs to Know About Serial EEPROM Endurance
Maker Microchip Technology
Total Page 9 Pages
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