WARF: P140001US01

Memory Conserves Power, Is More Reliable


Nam Sung Kim

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is seeking commercial partners interested in developing an improved on-chip memory structure that activates error handling as a function of operating voltage.
OVERVIEWAs circuit density increases, power efficiency has become a design priority for high-performance and low-power processors. Better energy efficiency means faster speeds and longer battery life.

One technique to boost processor efficiency is Dynamic Voltage and Frequency Scaling (DVFS), in which processor voltage and clock speed are reduced at times of low processing demand. This significantly cuts the power consumption of transistors. The lowest voltage at which memory cells can maintain their logical state is known as minimal voltage (Vmin).

Vmin may be reduced by increasing transistor size, but this takes up chip space. UW–Madison researchers previously addressed the problem by developing a heterogeneous cache structure that utilizes a combination of large and small transistors and operates at reduced voltages. Still, improvements are needed to balance performance and efficiency.
THE INVENTIONA UW–Madison researcher has developed a new memory structure (e.g., for caches, SRAM, DRAM, translation lookaside buffers, etc.) that controls error handling as a function of operating voltage. In this way, errors are corrected when the memory is run at low voltage and frequency.

The new design is made of multiple independently controlled groups of memory cells, each adapted to store digital data bits and error handling bits. A memory controller monitors the circuit to determine operating voltage and look for errors in the different groups when voltage is low. The groups have different physical sizes, and therefore have differing, predetermined susceptibility to errors as a function of voltage.

Performance issues associated with error correction, such as additional access latencies, can be avoided when the memory structure is run at a higher voltage (and frequency) and errors are less likely. Also, increased latencies due to evaluating error handling bits may be hidden by reading the digital data bits speculatively and assuming no errors.
  • Especially useful for battery-operated, high-performance devices
  • Laptops
  • Smartphones
  • Microprocessors
  • Maximizes energy efficiency
  • Maintains performance and reliability
  • Reduces power consumption
  • Significantly decreases the area required by large on-chip caches
  • Provides a flexible tradeoff between performance and power conservation
STAGE OF DEVELOPMENTSimulations have shown promising results.
Contact Information
For current licensing status, please contact Jeanine Burmania at or 608-960-9846.
The WARF Advantage

Since its founding in 1925 as the patenting and licensing organization for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, WARF has been working with business and industry to transform university research into products that benefit society. WARF intellectual property managers and licensing staff members are leaders in the field of university-based technology transfer. They are familiar with the intricacies of patenting, have worked with researchers in relevant disciplines, understand industries and markets, and have negotiated innovative licensing strategies to meet the individual needs of business clients.