When Memories Forget - Soft errors in very deep sub-micron memories

It is well established that all semiconductor memories are subject to bit errors introduced by the bombardment of alpha particles and cosmic rays. The Soft Error Rate (SER) is the metric used to quantify the susceptibility of the memory to these errors. At high enough levels, the SER significantly impacts the system reliability and requires corrective actions. This paper explores the background to soft errors and presents some measured data showing SER of various memory technologies. It explores the implications of SER for the system designer and why system designers will have to increasingly consider SER as we move to very deep sub-micron processes. It highlights that designers may well have to reconsider some architectural and technology choices in semiconductor product design to correctly cater for the problem of memory soft errors in the latest semiconductor processes.

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