Static random access memory (SRAM) is a type of semiconductor memory where the word static indicates that, unlike dynamic RAM (DRAM), it does not need to be periodically refreshed, as SRAM uses bistable latching circuitry to store each bit. SRAM exhibits data remanence, but is still volatile in the conventional sense that data is eventually lost when the memory is not powered.
The term SDRAM, which stands for synchronous DRAM, should not be confused with SRAM.
Random access means that locations in the memory can be written to or read from in any order, regardless of the memory location that was last accessed.
Each bit in an SRAM is stored on four transistors that form two cross-coupled inverters. This storage cell has two stable states which are used to denote 0 and 1. Two additional access transistors serve to control the access to a storage cell during read and write operations. A typical SRAM uses six MOSFETs to store each memory bit. In addition to such 6T SRAM, other kinds of SRAM chips use 8T, 10T, or more transistors per bit -- sometimes to implement more ports in a register file.
Generally, the fewer transistors needed per cell, the smaller each cell can be. Since the cost of processing a silicon wafer is relatively fixed, using smaller cells and so packing more bits on one wafer reduces the cost per bit of memory.
Memory cells that use fewer than 6 transistors are possible — but such 3T or 1T cells are DRAM, not SRAM (even 1T-SRAM).
Access to the cell is enabled by the word line (WL in figure) which controls the two access transistors M5 and M6 which, in turn, control whether the cell should be connected to the bit lines: BL and BL. They are used to transfer data for both read and write operations. Although it is not strictly necessary to have two bit lines, both the signal and its inverse are typically provided in order to improve noise margins. During read accesses, the bit lines are actively driven high and low by the inverters in the SRAM cell. This improves SRAM speed compared to DRAMs—in a DRAM, the bit line is connected to storage capacitors and charge sharing causes the bitline to swing upwards or downwards. The symmetric structure of SRAMs also allows for differential signalling, which makes small voltage swings more easily detectable. Another difference with DRAM that contributes to making SRAM faster is that commercial chips accept all address bits at a time. By comparison, commodity DRAMs have the address multiplexed in two halves, i.e. higher bits followed by lower bits, over the same package pins in order to keep their size and cost down.
The size of an SRAM with m address lines and n data lines is 2m words, or 2m × n bits.
An SRAM cell has three different states it can be in: standby where the circuit is idle, reading when the data has been requested and writing when updating the contents. The three different states work as follows:
If the word line is not asserted, the access transistors M5 and M6 disconnect the cell from the bit lines. The two cross coupled inverters formed by M1 – M4 will continue to reinforce each other as long as they are disconnected from the outside world.
Assume that the content of the memory is a 1, stored at Q. The read cycle is started by precharging both the bit lines to a logical 1, then asserting the word line WL, enabling both the access transistors. The second step occurs when the values stored in Q and Q are transferred to the bit lines by leaving BL at its precharged value and discharging BL through M1 and M5 to a logical 0. On the BL side, the transistors M4 and M6 pull the bit line toward VDD, a logical 1. If the content of the memory was a 0, the opposite would happen and BL would be pulled toward 1 and BL toward 0.
The start of a write cycle begins by applying the value to be written to the bit lines. If we wish to write a 0, we would apply a 0 to the bit lines, i.e. setting BL to 1 and BL to 0. This is similar to applying a reset pulse to a SR-latch, which causes the flip flop to change state. A 1 is written by inverting the values of the bit lines. WL is then asserted and the value that is to be stored is latched in. Note that the reason this works is that the bit line input-drivers are designed to be much stronger than the relatively weak transistors in the cell itself, so that they can easily override the previous state of the cross-coupled inverters. Careful sizing of the transistors in an SRAM cell is needed to ensure proper operation.
Static RAM exists primarily as:
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