A Nonvolatile Memory Overview
By Jitu J. Makwana, Dr. Dieter K. Schroder*
E-mail: [email protected] , [email protected]
This paper presents a basic nonvolatile memory (NVM)
overview. Section I begins with the introduction including a brief
background of NVM's and the common terms used in the memory
industry. The description and explanation of how an NVM is
programmed (adding electrons) using hot-carrier injection is
covered in section II. Section III covers the erasing or removing
of electrons from floating gates of NVM's. A brief mechanism of
Fowler-Nordheim tunneling is covered. Section IV introduces the
model that can be used to predict the NVM programming
characteristics. The hot-carrier injection model addressed is the
"Lucky Electron" model. Section V covers the reliability aspects of
NVM's. The common reliability issues an NVM encounters are the data
retention, endurance, and disturbs.
KEY WORDS: nonvolatile, memory, hot-carrier injection, tunneling,
reliability, retention, memory disturbs, EPROM, Flash
Memory can be split into two main
categories: volatile and nonvolatile. Volatile memory loses any
data as soon as the system is turned off; it requires constant
power to remain viable. Most types of random access memory (RAM)
fall into this category. Nonvolatile memory does not lose its data
when the system or device is turned off. A nonvolatile memory (NVM)
device is a MOS transistor that has a source, a drain, an access or
a control gate, and a floating gate. It is structurally different
from a standard MOSFET in its floating gate, which is electrically
isolated, or "floating". Nonvolatile memories are subdivided into
two main classes: floating gate and charge-trapping. Kahng and Sze
proposed the first floating gate device in 1967 . In this
memory, electrons were transferred from the floating gate to the
substrate by tunneling through a 3 nm thin silicon dioxide
(SiO2) layer. Tunneling is the process by which an NVM
can be either erased or programmed and is usually dominant in thin
oxides of thicknesses less than 12 nm. Storage of the charge on the
floating gate allows the threshold voltage (VT) to be
electrically altered between a low and a high value to represent
logic 0 and 1, respectively.
In floating gate memory devices, charge or data is stored in the
floating gate and is retained when the power is removed. All
floating gate memories have the same generic cell structure. They
consist of a stacked gate MOS transistor as shown in figure 1. The
first gate is the floating gate that is buried within the gate
oxide and the inter-polysilicon dielectric (IPD) beneath the
control gate. The IPD isolates the floating gate and can be oxide
or oxide-nitride-oxide, ONO. The SiO2 dielectric
surrounding the transistor serves as a protective layer from
scratches and defects. The second gate is the control gate which is
the external gate of the memory transistor. Floating gate devices
are typically used in EPROM (Electrically Programmable Read Only
Memory) and EEPROM's (Electrically Erasable and Programmable Read
Figure 1. A typical floating gate memory
Charge-trapping devices were invented in 1967  and were the
first electrically alterable semiconductor devices. In
charge-trapping memory devices, charge or data is stored in the
discrete nitride traps and is also retained when the power is
removed. Charge-trapping devices are typically used in MNOS (Metal
Nitride Oxide Silicon) , , SNOS (Silicon Nitride Oxide
Semiconductor) , and SONOS (Silicon Oxide Nitride Oxide
Semiconductor) . Figure 2 shows a typical MNOS charge-trapping
Figure 2. An MNOS memory cell structure.
The charges in MNOS memories are injected from the channel region
into the nitride by
quantum mechanical tunneling through an ultra-thin oxide (UTO)
which is typically 1.5
- 3 nm.
The first EPROM, a floating gate device, was developed using a
heavily doped polysilicon (poly-Si) as the floating gate material
known as the floating gate avalanche-injection MOS memory (FAMOS)
. The gate oxide thickness was of the order of 100 nm to prevent
weak spot or shorting path between the floating gate and the
substrate. Charging of the EPROM was achieved by biasing the drain
junction to avalanche breakdown where the electrons in the
avalanche plasma were injected from the drain region into the
floating gate. The FAMOS could only be erased by ultraviolet (UV)
or x-ray. The EPROM was perceived as a tool for system prototyping
before a design was committed to Read Only Memory (ROM). Today, one
can obtain EPROM's in either a ceramic package with a quartz window
that allows for UV exposure or a plastic package without a quartz
window. These memories are known as one-time-programmable (OTP)
EPROM's. OTP's are inexpensive, however, additional testing after
assembly is not possible. EPROM's in ceramic packages with a quartz
window are expensive but do allow additional testing since the
memory can be erased using UV light.
Although the 1970's saw the UV-erasable, electrically programmable
memories become commercially successful, there was an ever-present
attraction toward making the EPROM's electrically erasable, EEPROM.
H. Iizuka et. al , proposed the first electrical erasing NVM
known as the stacked gate avalanche-injection MOS (SAMOS) memory.
SAMOS memory consisted of double poly-Si gates with an external
control gate. The external control gate made electrical erasability
possible and as a result improved the erasing efficiency. The
EEPROM's basic approach with electrical means of restoring the
charged floating gate to its original uncharged status replaced UV
emission approach. Cheaper packaging and a greater ease of use were
the first advantages of EEPROM's over their UV-erasable
counterparts. The disadvantage of EEPROM's was the cell size that
was two to three times the size of an EPROM cell that resulted in a
larger die size. EEPROM cells consist of two transistors, one, a
floating gate transistor and the other, a select gate transistor,
as shown in figure 3. The select gate transistor is used to select
or deselect floating gate transistors for programming or erasing.
Die size was further increased to incorporate error correction
circuitry or redundancy circuits.
Figure 3. An EEPROM with select gate transistor.
During the 1980's, a novel nonvolatile memory product was
introduced, referred to as Flash EEPROM . The first products
were merely the result of adapting EPROM's in such a way that the
cell could be erased electrically as well. These devices used
hot-electron injection for programming and tunneling for erasing.
This new genre of Flash EEPROM's could not be erased by bytes but
could only be erased by the entire chip or large sections of the
chip. Since the need to erase by bytes as in EEPROM's was no longer
needed in Flash EEPROM's, the select transistor was removed from
the cell structure. Thus the Flash EEPROM's were two to three times
smaller than earlier EEPROM cells. The generic cell structure of a
Flash EEPROM is similar to a generic cell structure shown in figure
Below is a nomenclature or a list of memory terms (not exhaustive)
used in the literature, industry, and education fields:
- Bit - The basic unit of memory, "1" or "0".
- Byte - A group of 8 bits.
- Cell - The physical semiconductor structure that stores one bit
- Array - Repetition of memory cell in a two-dimensional
- RAM - Random access memory is fast, temporary storage for your
- ROM - Read-only memory is fast, permanent storage for your
- Program - The operation of adding or removing electrons from
medium** of a memory cell. Sometimes called "Write". Charge is
altered in the storage medium and thus the threshold
Erase - The operation of adding or removing electrons from the
medium** of a memory cell. Charge is altered in the storage medium
and thus the threshold voltage.
** Floating gate (1st Polysilicon) or discrete nitride
- Read - The process of determining the state of the bit
- Endurance - Write/erase cycles a memory can endure before
guarantee is 10 K cycles.
- Injection - Common terms HCI: Hot-carrier Injection, HEI:
Injection, CHEI: Channel Hot-electron Injection. Process of adding
charge using high fields.
- Tunneling - Process of adding/removing charge but does not
require high fields.
Gate oxides are thin < 12 nm.
- Data Retention - Typically a time value pertaining to a memory
cell's ability to
- Disturb - Charge gain or loss in a memory cell, gate disturb,
program disturb, etc.
- EPROM - Electrically programmable read-only memory.
- EEPROM - Electrically programmable and erasable read-only
- Flash - Term used to describe erasing of a memory in large
II. BASIC PROGRAMMING MECHANISMS
In both the floating
gate and charge-trapping memories, the charge needed to program the
device has to be injected into the floating gate or into the
nitride layer respectively. In order to change the charge or data
content of NVM';s, two major mechanisms have been shown to be
viable: FN tunneling (F-N) through thin oxides (< 12 nm) 
and channel hot-electron injection (CHE) .
IIa. Fowler-Nordheim (FN) Tunneling
One of the
most important injection mechanisms used in NVM's is FN tunneling.
When a large voltage V cg is applied at the control gate
during programming, its energy band structure will be influenced as
shown in figure 4.
Figure 4. Energy band diagram of a floating gate
memory during programming by FN tunneling.
In the figure, ec and ev are
the conduction and valence bands respectively, Eg is the
energy band gap (1.1 eV for silicon), fb is the
Si-SiO2 energy barrier (fb is 3.2 eV for
electrons and 4.7 eV for holes). The applied Vcg creates
the electric field resulting in a potential barrier. This barrier
provides a path for the electrons in the substrate to tunnel
through the thin gate oxide (typically less than 12 nm) and
eventually be collected in the n+ poly-Si floating gate. The
bending of the energy bands of the IPD and the gate oxide are
different due to the thickness differences between them. The IPD
ranges from 25 nm to 45 nm while the gate oxide ranges from 5 nm to
12 nm. The electrons collected at the floating gate leads to a
tunneling current density and is given by .
h = Planck's constant
Energy barrier at the injecting surface (3.2 eV for
q = Charge of a single electron (1.6x10-19 C)
m = Mass of a free electron (9.1x10-31 kg)
m* = Effective mass of an electron in the band gap of
SiO2 (0.42 m)
?inj = Electric field at the injecting surface =
Vapp = Voltage applied across the tunnel oxide (V)
Vfb = Flat band voltage (V)
tox = Tunnel oxide thickness (cm)
Equation 1 shows that tunneling current density is exponentially
dependent on the applied voltage, Vapp, which influences
the electric field, ?inj, across the gate oxide.
Figure 5 shows a cross-section of an NVM with electrons tunneling
uniformly with Vcg at positive potential while the
source (Vs), the drain (Vd), and the
substrate (Vsub) are at ground potential.
Figure 5. Uniform tunneling to program Flash
An optional method that can be used to program Flash EEPROM's is
given in figure 6 which is called drain-side tunneling. Drain-side
tunneling is sometimes preferred over the uniform tunneling due to
the programming speed as a result of higher tunneling current
density due to smaller injecting area.
Figure 6. Drain-side tunneling to program Flash EEPROM.
IIb. Hot-carrier Injection (HCI)
NVM's can also
be programmed by hot-carrier injection. The method of programming
is by hot-electron injection for n-type NVM's built on p-substrates
and by hot hole injection for p-type NVM's built on n-substrates.
Hot-hole injection is very slow due to the hole mass as well as the
Si-SiO2 energy barrier of 4.7 eV for holes, which is why
all NVM's manufactured today are n-type on p-substrates.
The memory cell is programmed by charging the floating gate via the
injection of hot-electrons from the drains pinch-off region. The
hot-electrons get their energy from the voltage applied to the
drain (Vd) of the memory cell. They are accelerated by
the lateral electric field (Elat) along the channel into
even higher fields surrounding the drain depletion region. Once
these electrons gain sufficient energy they surmount the energy
barrier of 3.2 eV between the silicon substrate and the silicon
dielectric layer or gate oxide.
With positive Vd and channel voltages, electrons
injected into the oxide of an n-channel memory cells return to the
substrate unless a high positive Vcg is applied to pull
the electrons toward the floating gate. The energy band structure
for NVM programming by hot-electron injection is shown in figure
Figure 7. Energy band diagram of a floating gate memory during
programming by hot-electron injection.
As the floating gate becomes fully charged, the gate current
(Ig) is reduced to almost zero
because the oxide electric field (Eox) (in the beginning
of the injection process Eox was
attractive to the electrons) is now repulsive to the electrons. In
general, to the first order,
Vcg increases the charge on the floating gate while
Vd affects the programming speed.
Figure 8 shows a cross-section of an NVM with hot-electron
injection programming. Vcg and Vd are at
positive potential of 15 V and 10 V respectively while
Vs and Vsub are at ground potential. The
p-well is also shown, as it is the process needed to separate
n-channel and p-channel MOS transistors from NVM's devices.
Figure 8. Hot-electron injection mechanism for programming in
III. BASIC ERASING MECHANISMS
Section II covered the
two programming schemes, namely, FN tunneling and hot-electron
injection. In order to reprogram an NVM, it first has to be erased.
This section will cover the erasing schemes commonly employed in
The electrons that are injected into the floating gate are trapped
by the high gate to oxide
energy barrier of 3.2 eV. Since the potential-energy barrier at the
oxide-silicon interface is greater than 3.0 eV, the rate of
spontaneous emission of electrons from the oxide over this barrier
is negligibly small. The net negative charge which remains on the
floating gate shifts the VT to a positive value.
There are two methods of erasing or removing charge:
- UV emission.
- FN tunneling.
IIIa. UV Emission
Referring to figure 9,
electrons gain enough energy acquired from the UV radiation to
surmount the energy barrier from the floating gate to either the
control gate or to the substrate, which reduces the V T .
The typical time it takes to change the V T from
programmed state to neutral or erased state is 10 minutes.
Figure 9. Energy band diagram of UV erase of an NVM.
IIIb. FN Tunneling
FN tunneling can also be
used to erase an NVM. One of the methods is by applying a large
negative voltage at the control gate. The energy band structure
will be influenced as shown
in figure 10. The applied Vcg creates the electric field
resulting in a potential barrier. This barrier provides a path for
the electrons to tunnel from the floating gate to the substrate
through the thin gate oxide.
Figure 10. Energy band diagram of a floating gate memory during
erasing by FN tunneling.
Figure 11a and 11b shows two choices to erase a Flash EEPROM. For
uniform tunneling, a large negative Vcg is applied while
for drain-side tunneling method, both a negative Vcg and
a positive Vd are applied.
Figure 11a. Uniform tunneling to erase Flash EEPROM.
Figure 11b. Drain-side tunneling to erase Flash
In general, uniform tunneling is slower that
drain-side tunneling, but, drain-side tunneling tends to cause
reliability issues. The reliability issue is the gate oxide damage
that occurs near the drain since a small area is bombarded by
electrons and that the tunneling current density as a result of
small area is higher.
IV. HOT-CARRIER INJECTION
One of the methods of programming an EPROM or a
Flash EEPROM is by channel hot-electron injection (CHE) where
hot-electrons are generated in the high field region between the
pinched-off channel and drain. Electrons with sufficient energy are
injected across the oxide to the floating gate, thereby programming
the device (increasing the threshold voltage to positive value,
VT). This process of programming is slow due to the
injection efficiency, which is dependent on three probability
events. The hot-carrier injection mechanism gives rise to impact
ionization at the drain, by which both minority (electrons) and
majority (holes) carriers are generated. The highly energetic holes
are normally collected at the substrate contact and form the
substrate current (Isub) while the minority carriers are
collected at the drain and forms the drain current
(Ids). If the oxide electric field (Eox)
favors injection, these carriers are injected over the energy
barrier (fb) of the gate oxide and gives rise to
hot-carrier injection gate current (Ig). In the case of
floating gate memories, these electrons change the charge content
of the floating gate.
There are two models that can be used to describe the gate current
due to hot-electron injection. The two models are the
lucky-electron model  and the effective electron temperature
IVa. Lucky-electron Model and Threshold Programmed
The lucky-electron approach of modeling
the hot-electron distribution was originated by Shockley .
Conceptually, the lucky-electron model can be described as follows.
In order for hot-electrons to reach the gate, the hot-electrons
must gain sufficient kinetic energy from the lateral channel field
(Elat) and have its momentum redirected towards the
Si-SiO2 interface in order to surmount the
SiO2 energy barrier (fb). Figure 12 shows the
concepts involved in the lucky-electron model. The three events
involved in the lucky-electron model are:
A - B Event: A channel electron has to gain energy from the
Elat and become "hot". The hot-electron momentum has to
be re-directed towards the Si-SiO2 interface. The
probability associated with this process isand is defined
as the probability of an electron having enough normal momentum to
surmount the Si-SiO2 potential barrier
Figure 12. The three processes in the
lucky-electron injection model.
B - C Event: Once the hot-electron is re-directed, it
must not suffer any energy robbing collisions. The probability
associated with this event is PSEMI. PSEMI is
defined as the probability of an electron traveling to the
Si-SiO2 interface without suffering any
C - D Event: While in transit from the
Si-SiO2 interface to the floating gate, the electron
must not suffer any collisions in the oxide image potential well.
The probability associated with this event is Pinsul and
is defined as the probability of an electron suffering no collision
in the oxide image potential well.
Since these three probabilities are statistically independent, the
resultant probability is the
product of the probability for each individual event. The gate
current is given by
l r = Momentum re-direction scattering mean free path =
L eff = Effective channel length of the floating gate
I ds = Drain-source current (A)
The charge on the floating gate changes the threshold voltage
(V T ) of the floating gate transistor by
DVT = VT (Programmed) - VT
DQfg = Qfg (Programmed) - Qfg
(Initial) = Change in floating gate charge.
The floating gate charge changes according to
Dt is the programming time (s)
The change in floating gate charge shifts VT from the
initial or natural threshold voltage VTi by
Cfg = Floating gate to control gate capacitance
Figure 13 shows a typical transfer characteristic for the
programmed and initial or erased states. The figure shows that the
Ids-Vcg curves are parallel to each other.
The shift of the Ids-Vcg curve from initial
or erased state to programmed state is equal to DQfg/
Figure 13. Ids-Vcg transfer
V. NONVOLATILE MEMORY RELIABILITY
Nonvolatile memory cells have some important functional
characteristics, which are used to evaluate the performance of the
cell. These characteristics are divided into two main classes,
namely endurance and retention. In order to understand endurance
and retention characteristics, it is imperative to know some of the
fundamentals associated with gate oxide and interpolysilicon
dielectric, IPD, integrity. Although traps are the storage sites in
MNOS, SNOS, and SONOS memories, they constitute the very means that
lead to reliability failures in EPROM's, EEPROM's, and Flash
EEPROM's. The gate oxide and IPD quality can affect endurance and
The primary failure mechanism of the gate oxide pertains to oxide
breakdown and trap-up due to high injection electric field
stressing during hot-electron injection or FN tunneling. It was
suggested that oxide defects and broken Si-O bonds serve as
trapping centers  for positive (holes) charge. Oxide breakdown
occurs after a fixed amount of charge per unit area
(Qbd) has been injected and has been shown to be a
function of applied electric field . Qbd is an
industry standard electrical test used to measure the quality of
the oxide with higher Qbd (good oxide quality) as the
desired goal. Trap-up is defined as the trapping of electrons in
the oxide during programming/writing operations. These trapped
charges change the injection fields and thus, the amount of charge
transferred to and from the floating gate during programming.
As described earlier, one of the components of a nonvolatile memory
cell structure is the IPD. In nonvolatile memories, IPD is used to
isolate the floating gate from other electrodes (control gate,
source, drain, and the substrate) and hence, should be defect-free
to prevent charge leakage from the floating gate. Since the
floating gate is a poly-Si layer, it is commonly oxidized during
the IPD growth process. The oxidation of poly-Si layer modifies the
surface topology due to enhanced oxidation at the grain boundaries
of the poly-Si, forming interface protuberances and inclusions
. The surface nonuniformities causes electric field enhancement
resulting in higher leakage currents, which is a drawback for an
insulating IPD. Figure 14 shows a circuit diagram of the effects of
nonuniformities with respect to electric field enhancement. Other
factors that influences the IPD quality are the doping of the
floating gate poly-Si layer and the temperature of both the poly-Si
deposition and the oxidation . Multiple dielectric stacks such
as the oxide-nitride-oxide (ONO) are now commonly used as IPD's for
lower leakage due to lower defect densities and higher electric
field properties . The lower leakage currents are achieved due
to the fact that the electrons that have leaked from the floating
gate gets trapped in the oxide-nitride interface which builds an
electric field that opposes further charge loss . Typical
thicknesses of the ONO stack are 5 - 10 nm, 20 nm, and 3 nm for the
bottom oxide, nitride, and the top oxide respectively. The bottom
oxide is the oxide above the floating gate while the top oxide is
the oxide beneath the control gate.
Figure 14. IPD leakage current due to
Va. Endurance Characteristics
characteristics give the memory threshold voltage window, which is
the difference between the threshold voltages in the
programmed/written state and the erased states, as a function of
the number of programming cycles, as shown in figure 15.
Nonvolatile memories can be programmed and erased frequently at the
expense of introducing permanent gate oxide damage such as oxide
breakdown and trap-up. This implies that the total number of
program operations is limited; for example, most commercially
available EEPROM products are guaranteed to withstand
106 programming cycles. The damaging of the memory cell
during cycling is normally referred to as "degradation" and the
number of cycles the memory can withstand is called "endurance".
Threshold voltage window closure occurs when the threshold voltage
difference between the programmed and erased states cannot be
distinguished. The phenomenon of window closure has been attributed
to trapping of injected electrons in the gate oxide due to
pre-existing electron traps. There is also evidence of trap
generation during programming and erasing due to high electric
field stress (Einj). It is thus important to have high
quality gate oxides that can endure constant electron stress during
hot-electron injection or FN tunneling.
Figure 15. Typical EEPROM cell threshold voltage window versus log
Vb. Retention Characteristics
When a nonvolatile memory cell can no longer hold the charge in
the floating gate, it is said to have affected its retention
capability. Retention is a measure of the time that a nonvolatile
memory cell can retain the charge whether it is powered or
unpowered. In floating gate memories, the stored charge can leak
away from the floating gate through the gate oxide or through the
IPD. This leakage caused by mobile ions and oxide defects, result
in a shift of the threshold voltage of the memory cell. Different
charge loss mechanisms have been described , , namely,
charge loss due to thermionic emission, charge loss due to electron
detrapping, and charge loss due to contamination such as positive
mobile ions. To improve the retention characteristics of the memory
cell, various improvements to the quality of the gate oxide and IPD
becomes very important.
Retention can be quantified by measuring or estimating the time it
takes for the floating gate to discharge when it is intended to
keep the information stored. When charge loss occurs, a shift in
the VT of the memory cell occurs according to equation
where dQFG, CFG, and dVT are the
floating gate charge loss, floating gate capacitance, and the
floating gate VT shift respectively. Equation 9 shows
the evaluation of the number of electrons lost and equation 10
shows how the number of electrons lost is related to leakage
current, ILeakage and retention time, dt.
For a typical CFG of 30 fF and a VT shift of
3 V, the # of electrons lost from the floating gate to control gate
is 5.6x105. Table 1 shows the retention time, dt, for
various ILeakage associated with a loss of
5.6x105 electrons or 3 V VT shift.
Leakage Current, ILeakage (A)
Retention Time, dt (Years)
Table 1. Retention time as function of
Table 1 shows that it would take 10 years for an NVM to loose
charge equivalent to 3 V shift for a leakage current of
Vc. Memory Disturbs
Widespread use of
nonvolatile memories in production systems requires data
for ten years or more. A typical memory array undergoes stresses
that arise during programming and erasing commonly referred to as
disturbs. The four principal memory cell disturbs that can occur in
an array are dc erase, dc program, program disturb, and read
disturb . The two common disturbs that can impact memory cells
during programming are dc program and program disturb. Memory cell
disturbs can also occur during erasing and is called dc erase.
Finally, during "read" operation when the memory is read to
determine the state (logic 0 or 1), memory cell disturb can also
occur and is called read disturb. Figure 16 shows the schematic
description of a memory array and will be used to describe the
memory cell disturbs.
Figure 16. Schematic description of a memory array with
In figure 16, the memory array has columns connected to the drain
of each memory cell
(COL 1, COL 2, and COL 3) that represent the "bitline" and are used
to select or deselect the memory cell for programming or erasing.
The memory array also has rows that are connected to the control
gate of each memory cell (ROW 0 and ROW 1) that represent the
"wordline" and are also used to select or deselect the memory cell
for programming or erasing. From previous discussions on
hot-carrier injection, both the bitline and the wordline have to
have voltages applied in order for the memory cell to program. If
either the bitline or the wordline is not connected to a high
potential, then hot-carrier injection will not occur.
The four types of memory disturbs are:
1) DC Erase: This type of disturb occurs on cells that are already
programmed (Cell A). These programmed cells are on the same
wordline (ROW 1) as the cell being programmed (COL 2 and ROW 1).
During the programming operation ROW 1 is brought to a high voltage
of 15 V. The electric field due to the high voltage appears across
the IPD, which may be high enough to cause conduction of electrons
across it from the floating gate (also known as poly-Si to poly-Si
erase mode mechanism) to the control gate. The result, loss of
charge and consequent reduction of the programmed threshold
voltage, which in severe cases causes complete loss of data.
2) DC Program: Also known as gate-disturb, occurs on cells that are
unprogrammed or in erased state (Cell B). These unprogrammed cells
are on the same wordline (ROW 1) as the cell being programmed (COL
2 and ROW 1). These unprogrammed cells have a few electrons on
their floating gates and thus low threshold voltages,
VT. When ROW 1 is raised to 15 V, the electric field
across the tunneling gate dielectric may be high enough to cause
electron tunneling into the floating gate from the substrate and
increase the VT. In severe cases, the cell is programmed
unintentionally and is called soft-write.
3) Program Disturb: Also known as drain-disturb occurs on
programmed cells. A programmed cell (Cell C) sharing a column (COL
2) with the cell being programmed (COL 2 and ROW 1) will also
experience high electric fields between the floating gate and the
drain. This may cause electrons to tunnel from the floating gate to
the drain, and lead to a reduced VT.
4) Read Disturb: This disturb mechanism occurs on erased bits that
share a wordline with a bit that is being read. The common wordline
places the control gate of the erased cells at 5 V. The selected
device's drain is driven to about 1 V. The unselected bits have
their source, drain, and substrate at 0 V.
An NVM overview was given which began
with a brief background of nonvolatile memories and the
terminology's used in the NVM industry. The two common methods of
programming are the hot-carrier injection and FN tunneling. In FN
tunneling, gate oxides thicknesses have to be less than 12 nm
whereas in the case of hot-carrier injection, the thickness of the
gate oxide is not critical. The two common methods employed for
erasing are by UV emission and FN tunneling. UV emission is
commonly used for UV EPROM's while FN tunneling is commonly
employed in EEPROM's and Flash EEPROM's, provided the thicknesses
are less than 12 nm. UV emission takes a long time to erase
relative to FN tunneling. Typical UV emission erase time is 10
minutes while the FN tunneling takes anywhere from 1 ms to 10 ms
depending on the applied potentials at the control gate and the
drain. The fastest method of programming is via hot-carrier
injection that can typically take up to 100 ms. To understand the
physics of hot-carrier injection, a "lucky-electron" model was
covered. The model shows how the gate current is evaluated based on
various probability events. Although the injection efficiency is
low, the process of adding electrons onto the floating gate is fast
due to high electric fields. As for every device, reliability
issues are encountered. Endurance and data retention are the two
common reliability issues an NVM undergoes. In addition to
endurance and data retention, memory disturbs also occur due to
memory stressing during programming and erasing.
 Kahng, D. and Sze, S. M. (1967) A floating gate and its
application to memory devices. Bell Systems Technical
Journal. 46, 1283.
 Wegener, H. A. R, Lincoln, A. J., Pao, H. C., O'Connell, M. R.,
and Oleksiak, R. E. (1967) The variable threshold transistor, a new
electrically alterable, non-destructive read-only storage device.
IEEE IEDM Technical Digest. 1.
 Wegener, H. A. R, Lincoln, A. J., Pao, H. C., O'Connell, M. R.,
and Oleksiak, R. E. (1967) Metal-insulator-semiconductor transistor
as a non-volatile storage element. International Electron
Devices Meeting. (Abstracts). 58
 Frohman-Bentchkowsky, D. (1970) The metal-nitride-oxide-silicon
(MNOS) transistor-characteristics and applications. Proceedings
of IEEE. 58, 1207.
 Yatsuda, Y., Hagiwara, T., Kondo, R., Minami, S., and Itoh, Y.
(1979) N-channel Si-gate MNOS device for high speed EAROM.
Proceedings 10th Conference in Solid State
 Suzuki, E., Hiraishi, H., Ishi, K., and Hayashi, Y. (1983) A
low voltage alterable EEPROM with
metal-oxide-nitride-oxide-semiconductor (MONOS) structure. IEEE
Transactions on Electron Devices. ED-30,
 Frohman-Bentchkowsky, D. (1974) FAMOS-A new semiconductor
charge storage device. Solid State Electronics. 17,
 Iizuka, H., Masuoka, F., Sato, T., and Ishikawa, M. (1976)
Electrically alterable avalanche-injection type MOS read-only
memory with stacked-gate structures. IEEE Transactions on
Electron Devices. ED-23, 379.
 Masuoka, F., Asano, M., Iwahashi, H., and Komuro, T. (1984) A
new flash EEPROM cell using triple poly-Si technology. IEEE IEDM
Technical Digest. 464.
 Yeargain, J. and Kuo, K. (1981) A high density floating gate
EEPROM cell. IEEE IEDM Technical Digest. 24.
 Guterman, D., Rimawi, I., Chiu, T., Halvorson, R., and
McElroy, D. (1979) An electrically alterable nonvolatile memory
cell using a floating gate structure. IEEE Transactions on
Electron Devices. ED-26, 576.
 Lezlinger, M. and Snow, E. H. (1969) Fowler-Nordheim tunneling
in thermally grown SiO2. Journal of Applied
Physics. 40, 278.
 Tam, S., Ko, P., and Hu, C. (1984) Lucky-electron model of
channel hot-electron injection in MOSFET's. IEEE Transactions on
Electron Devices. ED-31, 1116.
 Takeda, E., Kume, H., Toyabe, T., and Asai, S. (1982)
Submicrometer MOSFET structure for minimizing hot-carrier
generation. IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices.
 Shockley, W. (1961) Problems related to p-n junctions in
silicon. Solid-State Electronics. 2, 35.
 Harari, E. (1978) Dielectric breakdown in electrically
stressed thin films of thermal SiO2. Journal of
Applied Physics. 49, 2478.
 Modelli, A. and Ricco, B. (1984) Electric field and current
dependence of SiO2 intrinsic breakdown. IEEE IEDM
Technical Digest. 148.
 DiMaria, D. J. and Kerr, D. R. (1975) Interface effects and
high conductivity in oxides grown from polycrystalline silicon.
Applied Physics Letters. 27, 505.
 Faraone, L. (1986) Thermal SiO2 films on n+
polycrystalline silicon: Electrical conduction and breakdown.
IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices. ED-33,
 Mori, S., Kaneko, Y., Arai, N., Ohshima, Y., Araki, H.,
Narita, K., Sakagami, E., and Yoshikawa, K. (1990) Reliability
study of thin inter-poly dielectrics for nonvolatile memory
application. Proceedings 1985 IEEE IRPS. 132.
 Aminzadeh, M. (1988) Conduction and charge trapping in
polysilicon nitride-oxide-silicon structures under positive gate
bias. IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices. ED-35,
 Shiner, R. E. (1980) Data retention in EPROMs. Proceedings
 Mielke, N. (1983) New EPROM data-loss mechanisms.
Proceedings IRPS. 106.
 Verma, G. and Mielke, N. (1988) Reliability aspects of ETOX
based flash memories. IRPS Proceedings, 158
Got something to add? Send me email.
Increase ad revenue 50-250% with Ezoic
More Articles by Jitu J. Makwana, Dr. Dieter K. Schroder*
© 2012-05-28 Jitu J. Makwana, Dr. Dieter K. Schroder*