Investigation Into the Effects of Alpha Particle Radiation Sheds New Light on Risks Associated with SRAM-Based FPGAs
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., March 14 /PRNewswire/ -- Underscoring its reputation as a trusted provider of high-reliability field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), Actel Corporation (Nasdaq: ACTL) today announced that an independent study confirms its devices are resistant to the harmful effects caused by naturally occurring alpha particles. Alpha particles are a form of radiation commonly emitted from impurities in semiconductor packaging material and are capable of upsetting the SRAM configuration memory of FPGAs. Conducted by iRoC Technologies Corp., the study exposed a selection of FPGAs, based on both volatile and nonvolatile memory technologies, to alpha radiation and measured the resulting failures within each device. Test results showed Actel's nonvolatile flash- and antifuse-based FPGAs suffered no failures during the testing. Conversely, the testing revealed volatile SRAM-based FPGAs, from vendors Altera and Xilinx, suffered a considerable number of alpha-induced configuration upsets, shedding further light on the risks posed by SRAM-based FPGAs for high-reliability applications in the commercial, military and aerospace industries. The results of this independent study are published as an update to the report, "Radiation Results of the SER Test of Actel, Xilinx, and Altera FPGA Instances," which is available for free at http://www.actel.com/products/rescenter/ser/info.aspx .
"Being one of the leading commercial providers of soft error test and solutions allows us to observe and project industry trends," said Olivier Lauzeral, general manager of iRoC Technologies SERTEST business unit. "iRoC has seen improvements in the way companies address soft errors, such as the reduction of alpha particle contribution to soft error events due to the reduction of impurities generating alpha particles in the packaging, or the elimination of BPSG in nanometer processes. Despite these improvements, our study indicates that the number of alpha particles still emitted by today's packaging compounds is sufficient to cause a significant upset rate in memory cells. Furthermore, as the industry moves to 90nm and beyond, the overall susceptibility to soft errors will continue to increase."
Ken O'Neill, director of marketing for military and aerospace products at Actel, stated, "iRoC's latest examination into the effects of alpha-induced upsets follows their original study in 2004, which investigated neutron-induced failures within FPGAs. In both cases, Actel FPGAs outperformed SRAM-based FPGAs and were able to entirely withstand the negative effects of radiation, clearly demonstrating the superiority of antifuse- and flash-based FPGA technologies over SRAM for high-reliability applications. Further, because Actel's underlying architecture is inherently immune to radiation-induced functionality changes, Actel's FPGAs will continue to protect the integrity of high-reliability and mission-critical designs even as process geometries continue to shrink."
Test Methodology and Results
iRoC Technologies conducted a series of tests to determine the failure rate of five different FPGA architectures, including Virtex-II and Spartan-3 SRAM-based FPGAs from Xilinx; an SRAM-based Cyclone FPGA from Altera; and the flash-based ProASIC Plus FPGA and antifuse-based Axcelerator devices from Actel. The testing demonstrated that antifuse- and flash-based FPGAs suffered no loss of configuration under alpha particle bombardment, while the tested SRAM-based FPGAs demonstrated functional failures at rates as high as 260 failures in time (FITs) per 1 million gates. One FIT is defined as one failure in 1 billion hours. High-reliability applications require component FIT rates of 10 to 20, and typical high-availability applications require component FIT rates of less than 50. Failure rates were calculated using industry-accepted figures for alpha emissions from low-alpha molding compounds.
Actel Corporation is a supplier of innovative programmable logic solutions, including field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) based on antifuse and flash technologies, high-performance intellectual property (IP) cores, software development tools and design services, targeted for the high-speed communications, application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) replacement and radiation-tolerant markets. Founded in 1985, Actel employs more than 500 people worldwide. The Company is traded on the Nasdaq National Market under the symbol ACTL and is headquartered at 2061 Stierlin Court, Mountain View, CA, 94043-4655. Telephone: 888-99-ACTEL (992-2835). Internet: http://www.actel.com .
NOTE: The Actel name and logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Actel Corporation. All other trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners.
SOURCE Actel Corporation