First Advisor

Douglas V. Hall

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Electrical and Computer Engineering


Electrical and Computer Engineering




Low Voltage Cache Architecture, Power consumption, Cache capacity, Low voltage systems -- Design and construction, Electronic systems -- Energy consumption, Low voltage integrated circuits, Microprocessors -- Power supply, Computer architecture -- Design and construction



Physical Description

1 online resource (ix, 72 p.) : ill. (some col.)


Power consumption is a major concern for modern processors. Voltage scaling is one of the most effective mechanisms to reduce power consumption. However, voltage scaling is limited by large memory structures, such as caches, where many cells can fail at low voltage operation. As a result, voltage scaling is limited by a minimum voltage (Vccmin), below which the processor may not operate reliably. Researchers have proposed architectural mechanisms, error detection and correction techniques, and circuit solutions to allow the cache to operate reliably at low voltages. Architectural solutions reduce cache capacity at low voltages at the expense of logic complexity. Circuit solutions change the SRAM cell organization and have the disadvantage of reducing the cache capacity (for the same area) even when the system runs at a high voltage. Error detection and correction mechanisms use Error Correction Codes (ECC) codes to keep the cache operation reliable at low voltage, but have the disadvantage of increasing cache access time. In this thesis, we propose a novel architectural technique that uses spare cache blocks to back up a set-associative cache at low voltage. In our mechanism, we perform memory tests at low voltage to detect errors in all cache lines and tag them as faulty or fault-free. We have designed shifter and adder circuits for our architecture, and evaluated our design using the SimpleScalar simulator. We constructed a fault model for our design to find the cache set failure probability at low voltage. Our evaluation shows that, at 485mV, our designed cache operates with an equivalent bit failure probability to a conventional cache operating at 782mV. We have compared instructions per cycle (IPC), miss rates, and cache accesses of our design with a conventional cache operating at nominal voltage. We have also compared our cache performance with a cache using the previously proposed Bit-Fix mechanism. Our result show that our designed spare cache mechanism is 15% more area efficient compared to Bit-Fix. Our proposed approach provides a significant improvement in power and EPI (energy per instruction) over a conventional cache and Bit-Fix, at the expense of having lower performance at high voltage.


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Portland State University. Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Persistent Identifier