This paper explains how nanoprobe analysis was used to determine the cause of data retention failures in nonvolatile memory (NVM) bitcells. The challenge with such memory cells is that they consist of two transistors with a single control gate in series with a programmable floating gate connected by a shared source/drain active area. With such a layout, there is no way to isolate the control gate from the floating gate, meaning that characterization must be performed simultaneously on both transistors. Having to characterize two transistors connected in series increases the number of potential electrical signature effects not by a factor of two, but rather the power of two, which makes interpreting the results much more difficult. As discussed in the paper, however, the authors used an atomic force probe to verify the bit map of the faulty device and then analyze the failing bit to confirm the programming error and reveal the possible failure mechanism. The failure mechanism was determined based on its electrical signature and a physical analysis of the bitcell location.

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