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J. Low Power Electron. Appl. 2014, 4(3), 214-230; doi:10.3390/jlpea4030214
Article

Embedded Memory Hierarchy Exploration Based on Magnetic Random Access Memory

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Received: 18 October 2013 / Revised: 9 March 2014 / Accepted: 20 March 2014 / Published: 28 August 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Selected Papers from FTFC 2013 Conference)
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Abstract

Static random access memory (SRAM) is the most commonly employed semiconductor in the design of on-chip processor memory. However, it is unlikely that the SRAM technology will have a cell size that will continue to scale below 45 nm, due to the leakage current that is caused by the quantum tunneling effect. Magnetic random access memory (MRAM) is a candidate technology to replace SRAM, assuming appropriate dimensioning given an operating threshold voltage. The write current of spin transfer torque (STT)-MRAM is a known limitation; however, this has been recently mitigated by leveraging perpendicular magnetic tunneling junctions. In this article, we present a comprehensive comparison of spin transfer torque-MRAM (STT-MRAM) and SRAM cache set banks. The non-volatility of STT-MRAM allows the definition of new instant on/off policies and leakage current optimizations. Through our experiments, we demonstrate that STT-MRAM is a candidate for the memory hierarchy of embedded systems, due to the higher densities and reduced leakage of MRAM.We demonstrate that adopting STT-MRAM in L1 and L2 caches mitigates the impact of higher write latencies and increased current draw due to the use of MRAM. With the correct system-on-chip (SoC) design, we believe that STT-MRAM is a viable alternative to SRAM, which minimizes leakage current and the total power consumed by the SoC.
Keywords: semiconductors; VLSI; SoC; memory; non-volatile memory (NVM); Magnetic random access memory (MRAM); embedded systems; memory hierarchy semiconductors; VLSI; SoC; memory; non-volatile memory (NVM); Magnetic random access memory (MRAM); embedded systems; memory hierarchy
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Cargnini, L.V.; Torres, L.; Brum, R.M.; Senni, S.; Sassatelli, G. Embedded Memory Hierarchy Exploration Based on Magnetic Random Access Memory. J. Low Power Electron. Appl. 2014, 4, 214-230.

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