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X-Fab memory technology suits energy harvesting and IoT

Steve Rogerson
January 3, 2018

German electronics company X-Fab has introduced memory technology optimised for energy harvesting and IoT devices.
The non-volatile memory (NVM) IP is based on its automotive-grade 180nm platform and is for use in harsh environments.
The two products are a low-power embedded flash (eflash) IP block and a non-volatile RAM compiler. Both are based on the company’s proprietary 180nm XH018 mixed-signal cmos technology and are targeted at applications requiring high reliability and field re-programmability while operating at low power and in harsh environments.
The 128kbit eflash, which is available as an 8k x 16bit IP block, is based on silicon-oxide-nitride-oxide-silicon (sonos) flash technology. X-Fab has built up experience in integrating sonos memories with conventional cmos processes, ensuring high levels of data reliability.
The IP block has been designed for low power mixed-signal applications and has a deep power down stand-by mode consuming a maximum of 50nA.
The eflash IP block is targeted at replacing standalone NVM and embedded one-time-programmable memories in low power applications, enabling onsite programme code updates. This means it is suited to energy harvesting and remotely located IoT devices, where power constraints and harsh environments need to be dealt with, but field re-programmability must be offered at a low cost.
X-Fab has qualified the eflash IP block to comply with the automotive AEC-Q100 standard, so it offers engineers an automotive-grade product capable of operating across a temperature range of -40 to +125°C.
The sonos technology enables reliable operation of the IP block when combined with high-voltage options from 6 to 45V. This is made possible by the nmos, pmos and dmos transistors available with the XH018 process. High field reliability is enabled with a number of test modes designed to test individual memory bit cell currents and achieve no failures in the field. Finally, test modes have been designed into the IP to optimise production testing and reduce test time and cost.
Combining the fast read-write speeds of a conventional SRAM with the non-volatility of an EEPROM, the NV RAM compiler facilitates generating and integrating memories from 1 to 16kbit in a wide range of applications requiring fail-safe memories. The contents of the SRAM can be backed up to the EEPROM resource in the event of a power failure. This proves to be desirable for safety-critical applications such as smart meters, industrial control devices or data transfer systems.
The NV RAMs can be re-programmed up to 100,000 times at +35°C and up to 10,000 times at +175°C. NV RAM blocks generated by the compiler can retain data for up to 20 years without battery power in high temperature environments (+125°C). Innovations in the test logic integrated with the NV RAM reduce the test time by avoiding time-consuming measurements for low currents, thereby reducing production test costs.
“The combination of different NVM options with high-voltage features and low-leakage properties at a low mask count make the XH018 process highly effective, reliable and cost-efficient for emerging energy harvesting and IoT devices,” said Thomas Ramsch, director at X-Fab. “With the introduction of these readily available silicon-qualified NVM IP, we are enabling designers to focus on bringing their products to market faster and cheaper.”
X-Fab is an analogue, mixed-signal and MEMS foundry group manufacturing silicon wafers for automotive, industrial, consumer, medical and other applications. Its products are manufactured at six production facilities in Germany, France, Malaysia and the USA. The company employs more than 3800 people worldwide.