STMicroelectronics Sampling Embedded PCM for Automotive MCUs

The phase-change memory technology will support faster and more complex computing needs in automotive systems.

By Murray Slovick, Contributing Editor

As automotive applications become more complex to meet demands, processing power and memory requirements are pushing the need for new automotive MCU architectures. One of the biggest needs is for larger embedded memories as firmware complexity and size increase dramatically.

A potential solution to these chip- and system-level challenges comes in the form of embedded phase-change memory (ePCM). ePCM, which uses a germanium-antimony-tellurium (GST) alloy, takes advantage of rapid heat-controlled changes in the material’s physical property between amorphous and crystalline states.

These states, which correspond to logic 0 and 1, are electrically differentiated by high resistance in the amorphous state (logic 0) and low resistance in the crystalline state (logic 1). Moreover, unlike flash-based memories that require at least a byte- or sector-erase cycle before reprogramming, ePCM technology offers single-bit alterability, which simplifies software handling of data storage.

At last month’s 64th International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM2018) in San Francisco, STMicroelectronics presented architecture and performance benchmarks of a 16-Mb ePCM array for a 28-nm FD-SOI (fully depleted silicon-on-insulator) automotive MCU. ST said products based on ePCM are sampling now to key customers, with full technology qualification expected in 2020.

This is a cross-section of the embedded-PCM bitcell integrated in 28-nm FD-SOI technology. The illustration shows the heater that quickly flips storage cells between crystalline and amorphous states.

These MCUs—the world’s first to use ePCM—will target powertrain systems, advanced and secure gateways, safety/ADAS applications, and vehicle electrification.

“Having applied ST’s process, design, technology, and application expertise to ePCM, we’ve developed an innovative recipe that makes ST the very first to combine this non-volatile memory with 28-nm FD-SOI for high-performance, low-power automotive microcontrollers,” said Marco Monti, President Automotive and Discrete Group, STMicroelectronics. “With samples already in some lead customers’ hands, we’re confirming the outstanding temperature performance of ePCM and its ability to meet all automotive standards, further assuring our confidence in its market adoption and success.”

ST reported that its PCM technology has been developed and tested to operate within the stringent automotive requirements for robust high-temperature operation, radiation hardening, and data retention. It achieves automotive requirements for AEC-Q100 Grade 0 with an operating temperature of up to +165°C.

In addition, ST said its technology assures firmware/data retention through high-temperature soldering reflow processes and immunity to radiation, for additional data safety. ST’s implementation also benefits from patented technology related to the memory cell and to the GST alloy to support high temperature data retention.


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