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Variability in Nanoscale CMOS Technology

David J. Frank
12/3/09 International Winter School for Graduate Students IIT, Bombay, India

IBM Watson Research Center

Headquarters of the Research Division Yorktown Heights, NY ~1500-2000 people

1. Introduction 2. Sources and Types of variations 3. Specific Issues Doping Lithography Thermal Others 4. Consequences for circuits 5. Conclusions

Acknowledgements: A. Asenov, T. Brunner, B. Linder, S. Rauch


Example 1

45nm HKMG bulk CMOS technology

[From K. Mistry, et al. (Intel), 2007 IEDM, p.247]

Example 2 - Variations in Simulated IV Curve

VDS=0.7 V Leff=11 nm

[D. Frank, IBM JRD 2002.]

Example 3 - How thick is this oxide?

Sources of Variations
1. Process variations Variations due to lack of perfect control of the fabrication process. No two devices or structures are exactly the same at the atomic level.

2. Environment variations Variations due to lack of perfect control over the environment (temperature, voltage, etc.) in which the circuit must operate.

3. Temporal variations Variations which cause the device to behave differently at different times. Hot electron degradation, for example.

Types of Variations
1. Global Variations in the mean value of a parameter for the entire chip. 2. Local Device-to-device variations within any single chip. 3. Across-chip Variations in average device parameters from one part of a chip to another.

This distinction is important because these types require different statistical treatment for proper determination of impact on yield.

Matrix of Variations
Sources of Variations
Process Environment Operating temperature range, VDD range Temporal <NBTI> and Hot electron shifts <LG> and <W>, <layer thicknesses>, <R>'s, <doping>, <tOX>, <VBODY> Line Edge Roughness (LER), Discrete doping, Discrete oxide thickness, R and VBODY distributions Line Width, due to pattern density effects

Types of Variations



Self-heating, IR drops

Distribution of NBTI, Voltage noise, SOI VBODY history effects, Oxide breakdown currents Computational load dependent hot spots


Thermal hot spots due to nonuniform power dissipation

The ones Im going to talk about

Sources of Variations
Process Environment Operating temperature range, VDD range Temporal <NBTI> and Hot electron shifts <LG> and <W>, <layer thicknesses>, <R>'s, <doping>, <tOX>, <VBODY> Line Edge Roughness (LER), Discrete doping, Discrete oxide thickness, R and VBODY distributions Line Width, due to pattern density effects

Types of Variations



Self-heating, IR drops

Distribution of NBTI, Voltage noise, SOI VBODY history effects, Oxide breakdown currents Computational load dependent hot spots


Thermal hot spots due to nonuniform power dissipation


The simulation paradigm in 2000 A 22 nm MOSFET In production soon A 4.2 nm MOSFET In production 2023 A. Asenov, University of Glasgow

How should a MOSFET be described?

H2O C60


Continuum physics


Discrete dopant variations

The number of dopant atoms in the depletion layer of a MOSFET has been scaling roughly as Leff1.5. Statistical variation in the number of dopants, N, varies as N1/2, causing increasing VT uncertainty for small N.

249,403,263 Si atoms 68,743 donors 13,042 acceptors

[D. J. Frank, et al., 1999 Symp. VLSI Tech.] 13

Behavior of discrete dopants

The potential due to an ionized dopant: ~ 1/ r In 3D, isolated: In a doped region, with carriers around: screened by Debye length: ~ e r / In depleted region, with a 2D conductor nearby, dipole screening: ~ 1 / r 2


Impact on channel potential

Ionized dopants close to the channel create large local potential barriers

Potential in the plane of the channel of a simulated FET

Ionized dopants far from the channel contribute low, broad potential barriers.

[from Glasgow group]


Simulating discrete doping effects



Analyzing the variation of IV curves

I-<V> mean VT

I0=2 nA Continuum VT Continuum IV

IV curves simulated in 3D with FIELDAY. 100 different instances.

Determine VT shifts from subthreshold IV curves. Measure shift between the VT for continuum doping and the mean VT for stochastic doping. Determine VT from the VT distribution for the stochastic cases.



Random dopant placement creates uncertainty in source/drain edge

[D. J. Frank and H.-S. P. Wong, IWCE, May 2000]


Threshold uncertainty versus source/drain depth

Fluctuations due to source/drain discrete doping are negligible except for

deepest junctions.
Dominant effect is increasing body doping to maintain VT.
[D. J. Frank, et al., Symp. VLSI Technol., p.169, 1999]


Dependence of VT Variation on Width

Two cases have been studied:

[D. J. Frank, IEEE 2003 SOI Short Course]


Dependence of VT Variation on Width

Model for case with oxide end caps:
Two FETs in parallel


S edge: w=wedge center: w=wtot-wedge

VTedge This 'fit': wedge=8 nm


<VTedge>-<VTcntr>=-88 mV
VTedge=40 mV

[D. J. Frank, IEEE 2003 SOI Short Course]


VT variation in ultra-small nFETs

Doping Density

Doping profile design is scaled from a previous 25 nm design by Y. Taur. Gate insulator is 1 nm Al2O3. Body is forward biased to achieve low VT: VBS=VDD=0.7 V. Temperature is -40 C.

[D. J. Frank and H.-S. P. Wong, IWCE, May 2000]


Large Asymmetric Threshold Voltage Distribution in Ultra-Small MOSFETs

VDS=0.7 V Leff=17 nm

VDS=0.7 V Leff=11 nm

VT at ID=0.88 A

VT at ID=1.36 A

VT=23.1 mV

VT=52.2 mV

Distributions are asymmetric, especially for very short channels.

D. J. Frank, IBM J. Res. Devel., 46, March/May 2002.


Examples of Potential Profiles for Worst Case VT Shifts in 17 nm nFETs






Y (um)



Y (um)





0.000 0.05 0.07 0.09

0.000 0.05 0.07 0.09

X (um)

X (um)



Y (um)



Y (um)





0.000 0.05 0.07 0.09

0.000 0.05 0.07 0.09

X (um)

X (um)

[D. J. Frank and H.-S. P. Wong, IWCE, May 2000]



Example Data: Test Measurements on a Large Array of Experimental FETs

Standard Deviation
Standard Deviation (V)

VT measurements on ~4000 identical SOI nFETs at each (W,L) dimension, all in a single experimental macro. [Collaboration with B. Linder.]

for various drain voltages (W=245nm)

0.03 0.025 0.02 0.015 0.01 0.005 0.046 0.0723 0.116 0.221 0.4835 0.05 V 0.25 V 0.45 V 0.65 V 0.85 V 1.05 V

300 = 25.58 mV

# of devices = 3481

L=46 nm W=122 nm

Gate length (um)

Standard Deviation (log) (V)

Standard Deviation
for various drain voltages (Lgate=46nm)
0.05 V 0.25 V 0.45 V 0.65 V 0.85 V 1.05 V



150 100 50 0 175 200 225 250 275 300 325 350 375

Threshold Voltage (mV)

0.01 0.1 1

Width(log) (um)


Oxide thickness variations

Asenov, Kaya and Davies, IEEE TED 49, p. 112 (2002)
Oxide interface
30 x 30nm

Continuous doping, NA=5x1018 cm-3

Electron density contour

30 x 30nm

Potential contours

OTV=Oxide thickness variation, DF=doping fluctuations


Ultra-thin SOI MOSFETs

For very thin SOI layers, the discrete number of atomic layers of Si is expected to exhibit statistical variation. Simulations show that this leads to additional VT variations.

Potential in center of channel

Conventional simulation

Density gradient QM corrected

[A. Brown, et al., 2003 NPMS and SIMD, Maui, HI] 31

Functional dependence of VT

T. Mizuno, et al.

P. Wong and Y. Taur

P. Stolk, et al.

Asenov, et al., fit to large set of data.

But note that 1/sqrt(L) dependence can only be expected for laterally uniform doping. Long channel devices may not obey 1/sqrt(L), if most of the variation arises from halos that are shorter than gate length.


Takeuchi model

Takeuchi, et al., 2007 IEDM



Gate oxide variability and reliability

Oxide thickness profile

[S. Markov, 2006 SSDM, Glasgow Univ.]


Lithographic Sources of Variations

Global Variations A. Imperfect Process Control
Critical Dimensions are sensitive to:
focus dose (intensity and time) resist sensitivity (chemical variations) layer thicknesses
Intensity is modulated by interference effects, which are strongly dependent on layer thicknesses. Anti-reflection coatings (ARC) are used, but there is still sensitivity.

[K. Ausschnitt, et al., 2003 AMM Conf., T. Brunner, et al., Proc. SPIE 2001 Micro]


Global Lithographic Variations - continued

B. Errors in Alignment, Rotation and Magnification:
These may cause either global or local shape-dependent device variations.

Thermal expansion/contraction changes the magnification, so T must be controlled to ~0.1oC.

[K. Ausschnitt, et al., 2003 AMM Conf.]


Local Lithographic Variations

1. Pattern sensitivity. Interference effects from neighboring shapes change the widths.

2. Interference effects from buried features. (mostly a problem for wiring levels) 3. LER (Line Edge Roughness) [T. Brunner, ICP 2003]


Line Edge Roughness

Sources of statistical variation in chemically amplified resists: 1 Fluctuations in the total dose due to finite number of quanta Shot noise 2 Fluctuations in the photon absorption positions 3 Nanoscale nonuniformities in the resist composition 4 Statistical variations in the extent of acid-catalyzed deprotection 5 Statistical effects in polymer chain dissolution

2 2 = dose + 2 pos +2chem tot

[T. Brunner, ICP 2003]


Simulated contact hole exposure

Photons absorbed Deprotected polymer Disolved polymer

2003, SPIE

Monte Carlo simulation of exposure and development of a 80 nm contact hole using EUV [J. Cobb, et al., Proc SPIE] lithography.

Shot noise for different energy quanta

Estimated dose uncertainty for a 50 nm contact hole.
Lithography Energy Electron-volt 6.4 92 920 50,000 100,000 Resist Dose mJ/cm2 20 2 40 150 50
(3 C/cm 2) (0.5 C/cm 2)

# quanta per 50nm pixel 500,000 3400 6800 470 78

3 dose variation 0.4% 5% 4% 14% 34%

193nm EUV 13.5nm X-Ray 1.3nm E-beam Ion-beam

[T. Brunner, ICP 2003]


LER trend

[A. Asenov, et al., IEEE TED, Sept. 2003]


Simulation of LER effects in MOSFETs

VDS= 1.0V VDS= 0.1V

30x50 50x50

(Continuum doping) Potential distribution in typical 30 x 200 nm MOSFET.

Random instances of line edge roughened FETs are generated by a Fourier transform technique, and the IV curves are simulated to evaluate the variations in VT, Ioff, and Ion. [A. Asenov, et al., IEEE TED, May 2003]
[See also M. Hane, et al., 2003 IEDM Tech Dig., paper 9.5.]


Thermal Issues
1. MOSFETs may heat themselves up significantly during operation.
At higher temperature the drive current is reduced and the off-current is increased, impacting speed and bias conditions. The internal temperature may be history dependent ( ~ 10-100 ns). Especially problematic for SOI because of the high thermal resistance of the buried oxide layer.

2. Whole circuit blocks may run at high power, creating hot spots that perturb neighboring circuits.


Estimating Hot Spot Temperatures

Calculated temperature rise per KW/cm2 of power density in a hot spot for various heat sinks and Si thicknesses, as a function of hot spot size.

Silicon thickness

[D. Frank, IBM JRD, 2002]


Examples of Temperature Variation within a Processor

Temperature profile of an IBM chip.

from "Temperature-Aware Microarchitecture" talk, by K. Skandron, et al., U. Va.


Wafer-to-wafer variability





Normalized metal resistance data over 90 [Chandu Visweswariah] days


Interconnects variability and reliability

F. Twaddle, T. Drysdale

After G. Schnider

Increased resistivity Electromigration and voids Variability

[Asen Asenov, Glasgow Univ.]

Parameter variations have always been an issue for circuit design. In the past, CMOS technology variations have mostly been due to imperfect process control. In present and future devices, however, intrinsic atomistic variations are becoming very important. These variations cause uncertainty in IV curves, in timing, and in power dissipation.


Impact of variability on circuits

Analysis of margin loss Alternative cell: 8T

2. Logic Circuits
Impact on delay and power Statistical timing



6-transistor SRAM cell is widely adopted as industry standard embedded memory. 2 nFET pass-gates drive cross-coupled inverters. Separate supply voltages can be used for the cell and for the wordlines and bitlines. Bitlines are held high in quiescent state.

SRAM Failure Mechanisms

1 Process defect (e.g., shorts or opens) Systematic failures or random defects Process needs to be improved 2 Lack of stability margin Individual cells fail to hold state properly Individual cells fail to accept a new state properly No process defect is involved Cells on the tail of the distribution simply don't work
Lower Vdd decreases the nominal margin Scaled devices have larger variations, widening the distribution Increased density leads to more cells in the memory, and more populated tails

Desireable process improvements narrow the distribution


Transistor strengths
Weak Weak Cell is written by T1 or T2 pulling down T5 or T6. T1 and T2 are not (supposed to be) strong enough to pull up T3 or T4. Cell is read by T1+T3 or T2+T4 pulling down one of the bitlines.

Medium Strong

Medium Strong

Sense amp sharing

To save space and power, SRAMs often share a sense amp among several sets of bitlines. The wordline (WL) activates all of its cells, both those connected to sense amps and those not connected. Those not connected to a sense amp are said to be half-selected, and their bitlines are held to VDD to avoid accidentally changing their states.

The 6T Stability Margin

Vright WL=0

Noise Margin approach

No disturb VDD BL Vleft 0 BL WL=V DD Access FET disturbs 0 Node

(Pulled above GND)





Worst-case stability occurs during a half-select read event

Variability can magnify the disturbance

If the noise margin reaches zero, the cell is unstable.

[Leland Chang]


2nd Method to characterize margin

the SRAM N-curve
VZ0 node current (A)
0.00006 0.00004





-0.00004 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0

VZ0 node voltage (V)

Measure current at node A when sweeping voltage from 0 to Vdd, with wordline turned on
[Clement Wann, et al., 2005 VLSI-TSA]

the N-Curve

ICRIT VZ0 node current (mA)










125 C, 0.7V 125 C, 0.7V, 50 mV Vt skew 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7

-0.03 0.0

VZ0 node voltage (V)

Points 1 and 3 are stable, point 2 is metastable Point 1 is determined by the cell ratio Point 2 is considered to be the switching point For point 3, the other side of the cell needs to be analyzed for instability. If ICRIT reaches zero, the cell is unstable.

Analysis of Variations in SRAMs

1 Traditional method: Monte Carlo at the circuit level 2 'Analytic' method: most-probable worst case vector
Since parameter variations are approximately Gaussian and not bounded, it is not possible to absolutely guarantee functionality. Therefore design must be based on achieving a target yield (e.g., 95%).

Trial design

Try again

Evaluate expected yield Good enough ? Yes Go on vacation No

Goal of this analysis is to evaluate the expected yield.


Monte Carlo Circuit Simulations

Randomly assign characteristics separately for each FET. Simulate circuit to see if it works. Under some conditions, a small fraction of such cells fail. Cell 1 Cell 1 Cell 2 Cell 2 Model 1 Model 2 Model 1 Model 2

SRAMs may have 10M cells.

cells is failing?

How can we tell if 1 in 10M


Analytic method: Finding the mostprobable worst case

For any given measure of an SRAM cell's performance, there is some value at which the cell will fail. (For example, when Icrit=0.) We need to find the most likely way of causing that failure, and determine how likely it is. Using that failure probability, we then determine the likelihood of the entire SRAM functioning.
Two variable example:

MPWC vector
3 2 1

Red curves are hypothetical values of a function M. Blue curves are lines of constant probability, falling off from the center. 59

Some definitions
Let M be a measurement function (such as ICRIT) used to evaluate the performance or functionality of an SRAM cell. There may be several such functions to consider. This parameter can be linearized about the nominal design point:

where the xi are the deviations from nominal of the various device parameters that are important in determining the functionality of the circuit, such as the VT deviations of the 6 different FETs in an SRAM cell.

The standard distribution of the M values is then

where the xi are the standard deviations of the various device parameters (e.g., the VT's). (This assumes the distributions are reasonably Gaussian.)


Most Probable Worst Case

For linear measurement functions M, one can evaluate exactly the most probable worst case. This direction is given by:

M xi xi = xi M
For nonlinear measurement functions M, one should carry out numerical evaluations in this worst case direction. The function M is evaluated along this path until the point at which the cell stops working. The number of sigmas, M/M, to this point yields the probability of the cell failing. Equivalent paths must also be considered. e.g., swapping left and right transistor parameters in the cell.

Two variable example: MPWC vector

3 2 1

Blue curves are lines of constant probability, falling off from the center. Red curves are hypothetical values of a function M. 61

Linearity of ICRIT
Reasonably linear to start with. Linearity improves when all devices vary simultaneously.
40 "A"



T6 10 T4 0 0 "B" 100 200 300 400 T3 T1

All varying together in worst-case manner

V T skew (mV)


Define ADM
Since ICRIT is quite linear, use the simplest form, and define: ADM (Access Disturb Margin) = where I
I CRIT = i i xi




Margin / size / redundancy requirements

SRAM Maximum stability SRAM size in margin due to a chip w/ yield Vt variation target 90% 3 3.5 4 4.5 5 5.2 5.5 6 6.5 77 437 3.2K 30K 350K 1M 5.3M 102M 2.5B Redundancy bits needed for 1M array w/ 90% yield target ~1400 ~ 250 38 6 1 0 0 0 0 Redundancy bits needed for 10M array w/ 90% yield target ~ 14000 ~ 2400 ~ 330 42 5* 2 1 0 0 DJF/BW/CW

*90% of the time, 5 or fewer bits are bad

ADM determines the stability limited yield of a given array size and the required redundancy
Quick feedback when exploring the design space

10% improvement in ADM size

10X increase in array


Impact of SRAM variability

Industry Trends
100 100

Acttiive P Ac v e P owerrDen owe De nstiyy 100 si t


Power (W/cm2) Power (W/cm2)

10 10 1 1 0.1 0.1 0.01 0.01 0.001 0.001 0.0001 0.0001 1E-5 1E-5 0.01 0.01 0.1

Pa ss ive

1 0.1

Po we r


De ns ity

0.001 0.0001 1E-5


Lpoly (um)

Number of Bad SRAM Bits per MPU Chip

1000 1000

Mitigating the problems

SRAM: no more business-as-usual.
Much slower scaling of devices (W & L) Increase density by shrinking the space between devices Keep the voltage high, and use circuit innovations Need different optimization of the SRAM FETs from the logic FETs Or, use eDRAM or other types of memory


Possible solution: Variation-tolerant 8T cell

Measured Frequency [GHz]


32kb Subarray in 65nm

6 5 4 3 2 1 0 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 1.2
~0.7GHz per 0.1V

WBL Pass-gates for write only



Read stack for read only

VDD,Logic = VDD,Array [V]

L. Chang et al., VLSI05, VLSI07

Cell nodes are not disturbed during read

Stability problems are eliminated Writeability problems can be minimized

Read and write mechanisms are decoupled

[Leland Chang]

Impact of variability on circuits

Analysis of margin loss Alternative cell: 8T

2. Logic Circuits
Impact on delay and power Statistical timing


Impact on yield
Worst-process slow

Worst-process high power

Local variations

Nominal design point must balance yield loss from opposing design targets (e.g., power and delay). Worst-process points must be chosen carefully to balance likelihood of global variation reaching this point against probability of local variations causing design to fail.

Increased Static Power

Doping variations, length variations, and noise combine together to create an approximately Gaussian distribution of equivalent threshold voltage with sigma, VTeff. Integrating this Gaussian against the exponential off-current dependence yields an average shift:
I ave =

(VT ) I off (VT )dVT

(V V )2 I exp VT VT exp T 2 T 0 kT 2 VTeff 2 VTeff 1

dV T

2 VTeff = I 0 exp + 2 ( kT )2

So, the background leakage current increases by the factor and so does the static power dissipation. If VTeff exceeds kT, this factor can become quite large.

2 + VTeff exp 2 ( kT



Delay variability
Analysis of delay variability requires statistical timing tools
At IBM we use EinsStat

Advantages of EinsStat:
Pessimism reduction Sensitivity checking Increased robustness of design Full-chip coverage Fully incremental Yield curve predictions
Performance vs. yield tradeoffs

Identifies critical paths with good process coverage for at-speed test Parallelized for fast turnaround
[Chandu Visweswariah]

What does EinsStat do?

All timing quantities such as arrival times are propagated as probability distributions a

+ +


b Correlations are important; the covariance matrix for an average chip is 100M x 100M in size

[Chandu Visweswariah]

Pessimism reduction
p2 Exhausting corner analysis gives us the worst performance across these hypercube corners

3 2 1 p1

Statistical analysis gives us the worst performance in this hypersphere

[Chandu Visweswariah]

Impact of variability on optimized performance

Variation sources: Signal Coupling noise Supply noise Statistical doping variations LER gate length variations Consequences modeled: Increased static power Critical path delay distribution Single stage functionality.
P=0.01 P=1 P=50

Relative Performance

1.2 1.1 1 0.9 0.8 0.7 0%

65nm node, dual processor core





Relative Margin

Increased variability requires: Higher supply voltages Less scaled FETs


In the past, CMOS yield loss was often due to processing defects, but at present and in the future it is dominated by parameter variability. Parameter variations can be divided into global (chip mean) variations, local (device-to-device) variations, and across-chip variations. Global variations and non-thermal across chip variations can probably be controlled by conventional process control efforts. Local variations are mostly associated with the discreteness of matter and energy (atoms and photons). Discreteness effects tend to get worse with scaling. Extraordinary efforts may be needed to mitigate this trend. In SRAM, variability causes margin loss and large numbers of bad bits. In Logic, variability causes increased dissipation and timing uncertainty.


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