Single-Event Effects Induced by Heavy Ions in SONOS Charge Trapping Memory Arrays

T. Patrick Xiao, Christopher H. Bennett, Sapan Agarwal, David R. Hughart, Hugh J. Barnaby, Helmut Puchner, A. Alec Talin, Matthew J. Marinella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


We investigate the sensitivity of silicon-oxide-nitride-silicon-oxide (SONOS) charge trapping memory technology to heavy-ion induced single-event effects. Threshold voltage ( V_T ) statistics were collected across multiple test chips that contained in total 18 Mb of 40-nm SONOS memory arrays. The arrays were irradiated with Kr and Ar ion beams, and the changes in their V_T distributions were analyzed as a function of linear energy transfer (LET), beam fluence, and operating temperature. We observe that heavy ion irradiation induces a tail of disturbed devices in the 'program' state distribution, which has also been seen in the response of floating-gate (FG) flash cells. However, the V_T distribution of SONOS cells lacks a distinct secondary peak, which is generally attributed to direct ion strikes to the gate-stack of FG cells. This property, combined with the observed change in the V_T distribution with LET, suggests that SONOS cells are not particularly sensitive to direct ion strikes but cells in the proximity of an ion's absorption can still experience a V_T shift. These results shed new light on the physical mechanisms underlying the V_T shift induced by a single heavy ion in scaled charge trap memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)406-413
Number of pages8
JournalIEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022


  • Charge trap memory
  • flash memory
  • heavy ion irradiation
  • silicon nitridea silicon oxide (SONOS)
  • single-event effects
  • single-event upset

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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