Renesas Electronics develops industry’s first 28nm embedded flash memory tech for microcontrollers

Renesas Electronics Corporation, a provider of advanced semiconductor solutions, today announced that it has developed the industry’s first 28nm flash memory intellectual property (IP) for microcontrollers (MCUs) using a 28nm process technology.

As engines move to even lower fuel consumption, new control mechanisms are now required to deal with the introduction of new combustion methods and further system evolution associated with downsizing. High-speed real-time processing, such as dynamically switching between multiple control algorithms according to the load in response to feedback from various sensors, will become necessary, and a performance level three to five times that will be required in automotive MCUs. Furthermore, while the number of ECUs is increasing, if we consider the limitations on power supply, such as the practice of stopping the engine when the car is temporarily stopped, it is clear that while performance must be improved, it is also necessary to reduce power consumption.

Also, due to issues such as the increasing complexity of integrating multiple MCUs and the control algorithms themselves, flash MCUs will require an increase in on-chip flash memory capacity to about three times that of previous devices. At the same time, since it is now extremely important to increase the safety and security of automotive control and of the requirements on automotive MCUs, high-level functional safety has become critical. A new many-core architecture is now required for the inclusion of multiple dual processors operating in lock step, and for the integration of a variety of functions. In low fuel consumption engines, the processing accelerators for the injection pulse generation and signal processing required for high-precision combustion control, knock control, and cooperative control with the driving support systems that will lead to autonomous cars are now required and thus a higher integration density, that is, moving to a finer feature size fabrication process, is now indispensable.

Renesas’ current 40nm process technology supports up to 8MB of on-chip flash memory for MCUs. However, on-chip MCU flash memory modules as large as 10MB will be required to support the increasing sophistication of the control systems implemented with MCUs.

Moving to smaller process geometry is one approach to increasing the integration density of the flash memory and peripheral functions that are integrated on a single chip. Single-chip MCUs developed using Renesas’ new 28nm process technology will be able to support a maximum capacity of over 16MB flash memory on chip.

Renesas has been moving forward with prototypes in the 28nm process, which features even finer features than the existing 40nm process. In the latest prototype chip, Renesas was able to achieve a high-speed readout operating clock frequency of 160 MHz, a data retention time of 20 years, and a rewrite cycle count of 250,000 cycles (for data storage). Although it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain flash memory performance and reliability as feature sizes are reduced, Renesas succeeded in creating this prototype by taking advantage of the scalability of the MONOS structure flash memory, which made it possible to increase both the capacity and the performance of the memory integrated in flash MCUs. Renesas’ MONOS technology for MCUs has achieved a superb track record through the company’s 40nm process generation.

The new 28nm flash memory IP for MCUs offers design benefits for automotive and other industries with high-reliability criteria. For example, in the ADAS (advanced driving assistant system) field, the increased memory capacity and performance will make it possible to support complex data processing for 3D radar to increase the safety of automotive. Furthermore, in the power train area, this new technology will enable an even finer-grained control of fuel injection and ignition through increases in the amount of mapping data used for fuel injection and increased data processing capability. This will contribute not only to increased fuel efficiency, but also to reduced environmental and energy challenges. Additionally, by adopting a 28nm process, it will be possible to reduce current consumption.

Renesas will accelerate their development of 28nm process automotive flash MCUs for commercial release to support needs for high-speed readout, high reliability, and larger capacities – a maximum capacity of over 16MB.

Renesas already leads the industry in mass producing flash MCUs and has contributed to the wider adoption of flash MCUs in a wide range of industries, including automotive, consumer, and industrial. Renesas grasped the trend towards higher reliability and increased integration densities early on, and deployed the MONOS structure flash memory, which is comparatively easy to adapt to finer feature size processes, in 150nm process MCUs in 2004, in 90nm MCUs in 2007, and in 40nm MCUs in 2012. In addition, Renesas was the first semiconductor manufacturer to ship flash MCU samples from 90nm generation onward while scaling the process technology.

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