Multi-level cell STT-RAM: Is it realistic or just a dream?

TitleMulti-level cell STT-RAM: Is it realistic or just a dream?
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsY Zhang, L Zhang, W Wen, G Sun, and Y Chen
Conference NameIeee/Acm International Conference on Computer Aided Design, Digest of Technical Papers, Iccad
Date Published12/2012

Spin-transfer torque random access memory (STT-RAM) is a promising nonvolatile memory technology aiming on-chip or embedded applications. In recent years, many researches have been conducted to improve the storage density and enhance the scalability of STT-RAM, such as reducing the write current and switching time of magnetic tunneling junction (MTJ) devices. In parallel with these efforts, the continuous increasing of tunnel magneto-resistance(TMR) ratio of the MTJ inspires the development of multi-level cell (MLC) STT-RAM, which allows multiple data bits be stored in a single memory cell. Two types of MLC STT-RAM cells, namely, parallel MLC and series MLC, were also proposed. The storage margin of a MLC STT-RAM cell, i.e., the distinction between the lowest and highest resistance states, is partitioned into multiple segments for multi-level data representation. As a result, the performance and reliability of MLC STT-RAM cells become more sensitive to the MOS and MTJ device variations and the thermal-induced randomness of MTJ switching. In this work, we systematically analyze the variation sources of MLC STT-RAM designs and their impacts on the reliability of the read and write operations. On top of that, we also discuss the optimal device parameters of the MLC MTJ for the minimization of the operation error rate of the MLC STT-RAM cells from statistical design perspective. Our simulation results show that under the current available technology, series MLC STT-RAM demonstrates overwhelming benefits in the read and write reliability compared to parallel MLC STT-RAM and could potentially satisfy the requirement of commercial practices. © 2012 ACM.