Researchers claim to have discovered a technique for reducing row-hammering failures in dynamic RAM (DRAM) cells, finding that adding metallic nanoparticles during the production process may lead to higher-speed, higher-capacity memory modules without a corresponding increase in data corruption rates.

The march of Moore's Law, the observation by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore that the number of transistors on a leading-edge chip trend towards a doubling every 18 months, has been adopted by the semiconductor industry as a mandatory requirement. As the size of components and the gaps between get ever smaller, though, it becomes increasingly difficult to prevent each component from negatively influencing the component next to it. Add in increasing operating frequencies, and you've got problems with corruption - and in DRAM parts, the problem is known as row-hammering failure.

Solving row-hammering problems is key to developing faster DRAM, and researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee and semiconductor equipment maker Applied Materials claim to have found a technique for doing just that: The addition of metallic nanoparticles to the DRAM to shield components from row-hammering.

According to a report on the research in IEEE Spectrum, the technique adds metallic nanoparticles into the access transistor's gate portion to introduce an energy valley between that and the gate electrode. It's this valley which prevents electrons from the 'aggressor' cell from diffusing to the 'victim' cell and causing corruption.

While the technique shows promise, there are caveats. Chief among these is the fact that the technique has only been proven in simulation, and has yet to be tried on a physical prototype. While Applied Materials' Arvind Kumar admits that there are 'additional steps' between the discovery and exploitation at a production level, he is also confident that semiconductor companies 'may find this idea an interesting process solution for nanoparticle engineered gate stacks at a low cost'.

The team's research is available in the paper Improvement of Row Hammering Using Metal Nanoparticles in DRAM - A Simulation Study, published in the journal IEEE Electron Device Letters Volume 39 Issue 9.

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October 14 2021 | 15:04