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Ultra-low-power SRAM design in high variability advanced CMOS

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ABSTRACT Thesis (Ph. D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, 2009. Cataloged from PDF version of thesis. Includes bibliographical references (p. 163-181). Embedded SRAMs are a critical component in modern digital systems, and their role is preferentially increasing. As a result, SRAMs strongly impact the overall power, performance, and area, and, in order to manage these severely constrained trade-offs, they must be specially designed for target applications. Highly energy-constrained systems (e.g. implantable biomedical devices, multimedia handsets, etc.) are an important class of applications driving ultra-low-power SRAMs. This thesis analyzes the energy of an SRAM sub-array. Since supply- and threshold-voltage have a strong effect, targets for these are established in order to optimize energy. Despite the heavy emphasis on leakage-energy, analysis of a high-density 256x256 sub-array in 45nm LP CMOS points to two necessary optimizations: (1) aggressive supply-voltage reduction (in addition to Vt elevation), and (2) performance enhancement. Important SRAM metrics, including read/write/hold-margin and read-current, are also investigated to identify trade-offs of these optimizations. Based on the need to lower supply-voltage, a 0.35V 256kb SRAM is demonstrated in 65nm LP CMOS. It uses an 8T bit-cell with peripheral circuit-assists to improve write-margin and bit-line leakage. Additionally, redundancy, to manage the increasing impact of variability in the periphery, is proposed to improve the area-offset trade-off of sense-amplifiers, demonstrating promise for highly advanced technology nodes. Based on the need to improve performance, which is limited by density constraints, a 64kb SRAM, using an offset-compensating sense-amplifier, is demonstrated in 45nm LP CMOS with high-density 0.25[mu]m2 bit-cells. (cont.) The sense-amplifier is regenerative, but non -strobed, overcoming timing uncertainties limiting performance, and it is single-ended, for compatibility with 8T cells. Compared to a conventional strobed sense-amplifier, it achieves 34% improvement in worst-case access-time and 4x improvement in the standard deviation of the access-time. by Naveen Verma. Ph.D.

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